The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'rightwingers'
So yesterday, England beat Sweden in the world cup, securing their first place in a final in decades, and setting off riotous celebrations. Some football fans, filled with the euphoria of the moment, trashed an IKEA in London, terrorising staff and customers. Others just blocked off streets and jumped on trapped cars.
It’s tempting to see this match, and its aftermath, as the latest flare-up of the Second English Civil War, this time not between the Cavaliers and Roundheads but the Gammons and Snowflakes, and on a broader scale, a Right-vs.-Left grudge match of two fundamentally different world-views of our time. On one hand, England: the bad-boy buccaneers of Brexitland. On the other hand, Sweden, the very symbolic epitome of European liberalism as most unacceptable to the Gammon majority who see themselves as custodians of England’s values, not to mention their fellow travellers in red-state, red-cap America. England may hate the Germans the most, and have hated the French for the longest, but the Swedes are the most egregiously antithetical to the harsh, robust values of the contemporary middle-England whose voice is the Daily Mail. Everything that paper rails against—gender-neutral parenting, multiculturalism, human rights, high taxes spent on the unworthy—is supposedly rampant in Sweden, and if you listen to right-wing older relatives, you will learn that the country is a bankrupt wasteland (due to the inevitable consequences of socialism) and/or an ISIS rape camp.
Sweden is lagom, everything in moderation, with a residual Jante Law stigma against putting oneself above others giving rise to an innate egalitarian tendency. In English, however, it is said that equality is the opposite of quality. We revel in excess. We’re a meritocracy of luxury flats, kept empty as investment units, towering over streets full of hungry, undeserving tramps; a land of teachers and nurses share-housing well into their 40s, and buy-to-let landlords building their well-earned empires, unmolested by redistributive taxation. We’re a nation of hard-working taxpayers who’ve had a gutful of uppity minorities asking to be treated with unearned respect. We're Terry Gilliam jealous of the privileges of imaginary black lesbians, and Morrissey spouting off about Those People. In England, a hedge-fund manager is literally worth thousands of paramedics. And where Sweden believes in universal human rights, inalienable dignity every person is, by definition, entitled to, England, however, divides humans into two camps: “deserving” and “scum”, with the latter to be treated punitively lest they get ideas above their station.
All over the streets outside pubs, mobs of men with St. George flags celebrate jubilantly, blocking traffic and chicken-dancing on the roofs of trapped cars; it's a big boffo day out, like everyone's best mate's stag do. The police come some twenty minutes later and move them on, in their own good time; they’re good lads, just a little overexcited. Hours later, and packs of blokes walk the streets, bellowing out ugly chants about German bombers. We are England, they seem to chant: the English, the English-speaking world, riding the ascending surge of the age. Donald Trump, the commander-in-chief of the English-speaking peoples, is ultimately our leader. Boris Johnson is our shit Churchill for this shit age. Human rights, social justice, Political Correctness, Cultural Marxism, the Frogs and Krauts and all their vino-drinking, garlic-eating chums, all lie vanquished under our boots. And we’re just getting started.
The word on the street here is that the Cup is coming home: home being, of course, England. This is, of course, wishful thinking, but at this stage, it is more plausible than at any recent time. Meanwhile, outside of football, Britain struggles with the consequences of a decision to leave the EU, that has been doubled down upon repeatedly even as it began to look increasingly dubious: Parliament was whipped to irreversibly tear the brakes out of the moving car and throw them out the window. Now, as funding irregularities and connections with Russian government officials emerge, some are talking about the inevitability of a second referendum. If Britain does look like winning the World Cup, perhaps we can expect to see Westminster do a rapid volte-face, approving a second referendum and rushing it through to happen within 24 hours of the victory celebration, in the hope that a groundswell of triumphalism will translate to an increased Leave majority. And in his room deep underneath the Kremlin, the chaos-magus Aleksandr Dugin watches with a smile, knowing that everything is falling into place exactly to plan.
Brexit, Trump and one world cup, all under the watchful eyes of the Kremlin.
Observing political debate, I have noticed a trope that keeps recurring, particularly (these days) on the Right. I'll call it the Gordian Knot Delusion. It says, in essence, “the so-called experts/eggheads/‘intellectuals’ keep going on about how complex things are, but they're liars. When you get down to it, things really are simple.” (There is an implicit “Watch this!” after that, as the speaker purports to bulldoze their way through some issue that namby-pamby liberals and ivory-tower boffins have been wringing their hands ineffectually over, like the two-fisted, lantern-jawed hero of one of those old sci-fi paperbacks the Sad Puppies lament aren't being written any more.) An example of the Gordian Knot Delusion, on that favourite subject of taxes/economics, recently manifested itself in the following tweet from Conservative commentator Daniel Hannan:
It does not need to be pointed out that this is an extremely simplistic argument, more an act of trolling (in its original sense of seeking to provoke a pile-on of responses) than a serious inquiry in good faith, at least, if one assumes that the author is not a simpleton. It achieved its aim, in that others piled on with rebuttals on the same level, along the lines of “if olive oil is made of olives, what is baby oil made of?”. But if one takes the premise beneath it at face value, or at least treats it as something more meaningful than wordplay, the Gordian Knot Delusion comes through. Taxes disincentivise prosperity, it implies, unqualifyingly; cut taxes to the bone and watch prosperity take off like a rocket. And ignore the tweedy, elbow-patched fellow there saying that it's more complicated than that; the man looks like a commie, and is probably after your piece of the pie.
If tobacco taxes disincentivise smoking, and petrol taxes disincentivise driving, what do you suppose income taxes do?— Daniel Hannan (@DanielJHannan) September 4, 2016
The Gordian Knot Delusion, the idea that things are simpler than they are claimed to be, is trotted out by amateur spectators in a lot of fields. Economics is a big one: witness the “common-sense” idea that national economies work like household budgets, with a largely fixed income that is unaffected by the level of spending. By this token, one can believe that deficit spending is inherently irresponsible and austerity is, in itself, good economic housekeeping. (This, of course, falls apart when one considers that economic activity generates wealth, and that savings at rest have no economic impact, but it feels enough like common sense that one can persuade oneself that these objections are sophistry by ivory-tower eggheads, Marxists and moochers.) Ecology and the environment are another area; nobody can see global warming, or when they can, one can believe that the evidence is still out, (or once it isn't, it's too late to do anything so crank your air conditioning up and enjoy the ride); and as for that habitat of endangered newts the hippies are protesting about, let's just drive a motorway through it and see what happens; betcha that everything will be alright. The bees are dying off? Who cares about a buncha dumb bugs! The coral reefs are too? The tabloids say they're not. And if they are, so what?
And then there's modern society in general: gender-neutral job titles and ladies wearing trousers and lactose-free milk in the supermarket, oh my! Your son, who used to be your daughter, is taking medication for ADHD, your other daughter has a girlfriend, your boss wears a nose ring, and the golliwog doll from your childhood is now a potential hate crime. In the good old days, these things didn't exist, or if they did, they were hammered flat like a lump under the rug; people accepted their lot in life, and, as the refrain goes, everything was alright. (One part of this is the myth that these complex conditions, from gluten intolerance to gender dysphoria, don't actually exist, but are made up by an unholy alliance of bureaucrats, drug companies, the liberal media and people who want to feel like special snowflakes; the corollary: were it not for the conspiracy, a sharp clip around the ear would sort them out just as well.)
At its core, the Gordian Knot Delusion is an application of the 80/20 rule to the modern world at large; the belief that complexity is superfluous, and that rather than fretting over it, one should just stride over and cut the knot, deciding that the world is actually simple; witnessing the lack of an immediate catastrophe, one will find one's common sense and derring-do vindicated. (The original Gordian Knot was cut by that gung-ho man of action, Alexander the Great, which is always a flattering comparison.) The other part of the Gordian Knot Delusion is the stab-in-the-back narrative of how the world started to look deceptively complex. As the paranoiac's dictum goes, shit doesn't just happen, but is caused by assholes; in this case, all that talk about how complex things are is the work of a conspiracy; a motley crew of commie traitors, ivory-tower academics, so-called “intellectuals” corrupted by book-learning, miscellaneous perverts, Satanic cultists and out-and-out crooks and thieves out to keep the gravy-train of complexity going, all the better to steal from the simple honest folks. (The trope about climate change being a massive fraud for the purpose of maintaining funding for otherwise worthless research is a classic of the genre.) It is, as conspiracy theories tend to be, a compelling story, especially those who feel themselves bewildered or victimised by the world.
Whilst ostensibly associated with the Right these days, the Gordian Knot Delusion is actually the very antithesis of Edmund Burke's Conservatism, formulated in the wake of that catastrophic leftist severing of this knot, the French Revolution. Burke's argument (framing Conservatism for a world where the divine right of kings was no longer accepted and the University of Chicago School of Economics had yet to come into being and coin its modern analogue, trickle-down economics) was that things are much more complicated than one can comprehend, that bold attempts to destroy ancient injustices are also likely to have countless unintended consequences, and that one should stick to gradual, tentative reforms at best, if not to just give up and learn to live with the world as it is in all its richness and iniquity. Today, one might expect to hear that sort of argument, but only from a hair-shirted greenie warning against tampering with Mother Gaia's blessings. The Robespierres of the Right are all too happy to break things and observe that, on a macro level, everything is alright (whilst circularly classifying those for whom they are not alright as bums and sore losers). These radicals are in alliance with a growing number of people who are anything but radical in temperament, but who have been radicalised by the rapid pace of change, and for whom the idea of turning back the clock to (what in retrospect seems like) a simpler time has appeal. The shift of the Gordian Knot from the Left to the Right could be a result of the increasingly rapid pace of social and technological change.
As of Friday morning, all hell has broken loose in the UK.
As nobody predicted*, the British voting public voted to leave the EU, 52% to 48%. Well, the English and Welsh voting public, mostly; Scotland and Northern Ireland voted strongly to remain. Immediately, things started going tits-up. The pound cratered, experiencing its largest drop in value since the Major government's withdrawal from the European exchange rate mechanism. Meanwhile, Google reported a surge in searches for “what is the EU” and “what happens if we leave the EU”, and the media began filling with reports of sheepish voters saying that they voted Leave because they expected Remain to win and just wanted to show their anger at the political class. Meanwhile, as soon as the result was safely in, the anti-EU politicians who backed the Leave campaign started to walk back their promises. There would be no £350 million for the NHS, no sudden end to the rights of foreigners to breathe our precious British air, no abolition of the VAT on power bills. Cornwall, which voted strongly to leave, nervously demanded reassurance that the hefty EU funding it gets would be replaced, pound for pound, from all the money not being sent to the garlic-eating crooks in Brussels; the silence with which its inquiries were answered must have done little to reassure it. A petition to have a second referendum (which, it turns out ironically, had been started before the result by a Leave supporter wanting to keep his anti-EU crusade alive in the event of a defeat) has, to date, received three and a half million signatures; this figure is still climbing.
The only people who did well out of this were the far right, who found themselves legitimised and emboldened. No longer was xenophobia something to deny, or tenuously rationalise, but a natural part of the order of Man; loathing and disgust for those unlike ourselves are nothing to be ashamed of, the message said, but perfectly natural and normal; indeed, perhaps it's those who don't feel visceral revulsion of the Other that are abnormal or sick. The far right and various bigots lost no time in taking this lesson to heart and intimidating foreign-looking people; all over Britain, Polish families found threatening letters in their letterboxes, a community centre was vandalised, and dark-skinned people found themselves being told by strangers (who, presumably, lacked the intellectual nous to know that they were probably not EU passport holders) that they're next. Even Laurie Penny, the (white, London-born) cyber-Rosa Luxembourg of this age, was told to go home by a man wearing a St. George's flag as a cape, because she looked like an art student, and thus wasn't, in his opinion, really English. I must say that, to an Australian, all this sounds uncomfortably familiar, right down to the wearing of flags as capes and/or markers of belligerent idiocy. (Incidentally, Penny's analysis of Brexit is well worth reading.)
Having realised that they had set the country on a course for economic, if not political, devastation, politicians in Westminster started to panic. A defeated David Cameron resigned tearfully, undoubtedly freighted with the complicatedly mixed feelings that he'd no longer be remembered primarily for having sexually interfered with a pig's head, but for something far, far worse. In doing so, he stated that it would not be him but his successor on whom the responsibility for pushing down the detonator and starting Britain's irrevocable exit from the EU would fall. All the obvious candidates in the Conservative Party hastily demurred; now now, they said, there's no need to be hasty. Britain had climbed out onto the ledge and announced its intention to jump, but upon seeing the distance to the hard ground below, was having second thoughts. This wasn't good enough for EU officials, who insisted that Britain had chosen to jump, and must now jump quickly, before the uncertainty upsets their markets (and also, so that the big gory splat serves as a warning to their own domestic Euro-refuseniks, now agitating for the chance to leave), and if it doesn't, they'll consult with lawyers to see if they can give it a helpful push.
Meanwhile, in staunchly pro-EU Scotland and Northern Ireland, things started to get interesting. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wasted no time, announcing that legislation for a second Scottish independence referendum was being drawn up, and that EU consuls would be invited to a summit in Edinburgh within two weeks to discuss ways of keeping Scotland in the EU. There was also the possibility that Scotland and Northern Ireland's legislatures may be able to veto the process of secession; this is disputed by some constitutional experts, though given the labyrinthine complexity of Britain's constitution (which is actually a collection of many documents), it may inject some doubt into the equation, or at least compel Whitehall to let Scotland have its referendum and leave. (After the last Scottish referendum, the issue was declared resolved for all time; theoretically, if Whitehall forbade a second referendum and the Scottish government went ahead with it, those involved could possibly be charged with treason. Much as the rebels of the Irish Easter Rising, a hundred years ago, were; that, of course, didn't end well for the unity of the Kingdom.)
So the pound is tanking, financial companies based in London (who comprise a big part of Britain's economy) are scoping out office space in Frankfurt and Dublin, and our elected leaders are falling on their swords, knifing each other in the back, or playing hot-potato with a live grenade, whilst those who pulled the pin out wonder whether it would be possible to, somehow, find it and put it back in; meanwhile, neo-Nazis are using this as official sanction to attack anyone they regard as not belonging. Welcome to Britain, 2016.
Oh, and in the time it took to write this article, an additional 18,000 or so people have signed the petition.
* YouGov came closest to predicting it, but got the sides the other way around, predicting a 52% win for Remain.
Britain's tantrum about whether to remain a member of the EU has been burbling on malevolently, like some kind of grotesque pantomime. The Leave side has been advancing spectacularly, given largely a free ride by the right-leaning tabloids, and has emerged from the depths of absurdity to within grasp of victory. Leave has been fronted mainly by a disingenuous Boris Johnson, using all his Oxford debating society skills, Telegraph editorial experience and classically-educated raconteurial eloquence to posit an argument he is on record as not believing in, buttressed by a Gish Gallop of trivially debunkable urban legends and outright untruths about overbearing EU regulations. it is clear that for him, the prize is not the UK, free at last of the tethers of Brussels and sailing the high seas like a mighty Elizabethan galleon, once again regaining its world-spanning empire due to the innate British genius for free trade, but Boris Johnson moving into 10 Downing St., perhaps even before the next general election. To his right is Nigel Farage, the affable (if you're an older white Englishman, at least) reactionary, pint in hand, telling it like it is and pouring scorn on left-wing metropolitan-elite bullshit, from global warming and finite natural resources to ladies in the workplace and smoking being harmful.
The past week started as a victory lap for the Leave campaign, buoyed by polls giving them a commanding 6-10% lead over Remain (also likely to be inflated by the asymmetry of engagement between the two sides; it is hard to imagine someone who loves the EU with the passion with which the hardcore Europhobes despise it). Remain seemed to be flailing desperately, the chancellor even resorting to threatening voters with punitive tax hikes if Leave won. Leave, meanwhile, stopped pretending that their argument is about bloodless economic calculation and got to the real (red) meat of the argument: the Bloody Foreigners. A poster was produced, showing vast queues of brown-skinned, scarily Islamic-looking refugees befouling England's green and pleasant land with their presence, its framing (wittingly or otherwise) lifted from a Nazi propaganda film from the 1940s. Then there was the flotilla: Farage (the champion of the British fisherman, who sat on the EU Fisheries Committee but declined to attend most of the meetings) leading a group of fishing boats up the Thames in protest, with a counterprotest led by Bob Geldof.
And then there was the murder.
Jo Cox, a Labour MP and human rights campaigner, had been on the Remain flotilla. The following day, she was back in her seat in northern England, holding an electoral surgery, when a man stabbed and shot her, shouting “Britain first”. She did not survive, and became the first sitting British politician murdered since Spencer Perceval in 1812. The right-wing pro-Leave press moved swiftly to disavow any suggestion that the murder was in any way political, let alone connected to an interpretation of their side's arguments, trying to spin the killer as a random lunatic, as likely to have been motivated by, say, the ghost of Freddie Mercury talking to him through his toaster as anything else. That interpretation was not helped when he was found to have had connections with neo-Nazi groups (including Britain First, if a photograph of him at one of their events is authentic), nor when, in court, he gave his name as “Death To Traitors Freedom For Britain” (though Louise Mensch, that reliably south-pointing compass of the British Torysphere, did make a heroic attempt to claim his words as semantically meaningless gibberish, or in her words, “wibble wibble I'm a hatstand”).
By now, pretty much everyone has conceded that the murder was politically motivated, which leaves Leave with the bind of trying to dissociate themselves from extremists further up the continuum of xenophobic opinion from them; meanwhile, polls show that some voters have started deserting Leave (though not in droves; the two sides are now polling neck and neck). Perhaps they're asking themselves about some of the people they've discovered themselves sharing a side in the debate with.
It's three days until the referendum itself, and the result is still very much up in the air. Polling suggests that Leave still have the edge, while the betting markets predict a Remain victory. If Britain votes to leave the EU, it will, in my opinion, be a catastrophically bad decision for reasons too numerous to go into here. If Remain ekes out a narrow victory, though, the sense of relief will be tinged by the awareness that, were it not for the brutal murder of a fundamentally decent human being, our ancestral hatred of the Frogs and Krauts and fear of a brown-skinned Other would almost certainly have shifted it to Leave. And it does make one wonder what proportion of the 40%+ of the population expected to vote Leave would agree with Mr. Death To Traitors Freedom For Britain that Jo Cox, MP was, if not a traitor to Britain, part of an enemy elite hostile to the “silent majority”.
Australia's ongoing, rolling culture war has recently converged on the idea of gender and sexual orientation; this is perhaps inevitable, after the previous iteration of the country's conservative (“Liberal”) government used the threat of gay people being able to marry as a political football, and committed the country to a vaguely-defined plebiscite at some time in the future on how much of that sort of thing should be acceptable (possible question: “Do you hate poofters: ☐ Yes ☐ Maybe a little ☐ No, but they make me uncomfortable ☐ They're OK as long as they don't hold hands in public or anything ☐ Not at all, I live in Newtown/Brunswick"). In the Liberals' defence, the country needs a scapegoat to unite against, and with death-cult Islamist jihadists being a bit thin on the ground there and the public starting to feel awkward about sending babies to gulags, it'll have to be the gays, and the transgendered people, and boys who wear their hair long, and girls who play football, and trendy-lefty parents who let their daughters play football and their sons play with dolls, and other such deviants and transgressives.
Now the culture war has moved into the schools, with the Liberals' new “moderate” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull ordering a review of an anti-bullying initiative after MP Cory Bernardi (a star of the Liberals' Putinist wing, who had previously compared homosexuality to bestiality) raised concerns that the program, by teaching that non-heterosexual/non-cisgendered identities exist and are valid, “indoctrinates kids with Marxist cultural relativism”. (Bernardi was referring to the trope of “Cultural Marxism”, emerging from a McCarthy-era anti-Semitic dog whistle, once confined to badly laid-out flyers from the swivel-eyed fringe of the far right, but now gaining mainstream acceptance, not least of all in Rupert Murdoch's Australian flagship, The Australian.)
The programme Bernardi is attacking, Safe Schools, was brought in by the previous Labor government in response to the plight of LGBTI teenagers in an environment where being anything other than heterosexual and cisgendered was to be a legitimate target; the result of this is that LGBTI kids in Australia are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight peers. And anti-gay bullying is not an isolated phenomenon in today's Australia: domestic violence is rampant, and heterosexual gender relations are defined by an almost Victorian paradigm of male forcefulness versus female resistance, where women who let on to enjoying sex on their own terms are “sluts” who “deserve what they get”. Australia has a long way to go, and it's not clear which direction it's heading in.
Anyway, it looks like Australia will now have an inquiry into this programme, and whether the poofters have it too good in Australia. At best, it'll turn out like the inquiry into “wind turbine syndrome” (a peculiar culture-bound syndrome affecting only conservative Australians), pissing taxpayers' money up a wall to come to the conclusion that, no, the Communists aren't
fluoridating the water supply trying to turn our kids gay (replete with exhaustive references to writings about the Frankfurt School of Marxist thought, carefully checked for proof of a conspiracy; in other news, it's probably a good time to be a German translator in Canberra). Though there's a real risk that it will result in changes such as bans on references to sexual orientation or gender identity, reducing the programme to a “bullying is bad, okay” motherhood statement, and once again allowing open season on gay kids (or those perceived, in the sadistic logic of the schoolyard, to be “gay”, an epithet having as much connection to sexuality as “Cultural Marxism” has to the writings of Karl Marx). Though one person's bullying is another person's “community-minded citizens' enforcement of shared cultural values” or something, and only a dirty commie would want to get rid of that.
Meanwhile in Newtown, one of the pockets of a bizarro-world progressive Australia, a school has allowed students to wear the uniforms of either sex without seeking permission to do so, much to the condemnation of religious bigots. I wonder how long it will be until the Christian Fundamentalist-dominated Baird government (which has recently strangled Sydney's nightlife with onerous regulation) tables a law mandating distinct male and female uniforms in all New South Wales schools.
I'm gentrifying the neighborhood. I'm adding special bus service for my employees. I've figured out a way for white people to make money from taxi cabs again. I'm replacing your favorite restaurant with a reptile park. I'm driving Filipino fusion food trucks on your kid's basketball court. I got next and I'm taking all the vowels out of this shithole.
It's time we divide this state into eleven smaller states with Galt's Gulch consisting of this city and the various gate communities to the north. If you don't like it you can just move to one of the other states like Hoboland and whatever we call the desert where we force all the cholos to drive their low riders.The last part is a reference to the recent proposal to split California into six states, allowing them to race each other to the bottom on tax rates, deregulation and labour costs. (Or, “take all the poor people who used to live in this cool 'hood before we gentrified it, declare them to be Not Our Problem and let them fend for themselves”.)
Meanwhile, a piece by Mark Ames (formerly of The Exile) on the US Libertarian Right's courting of the Bay Area techno-elite at a libertarian-themed conference named Reboot, yet somehow inexplicably booking a theocratic hatemonger to give the keynote, and the sometimes uneasy fit this highlights between Californian-style libertarianism (think along the lines of Robert Anton Wilson's Guns And Dope Party—a bit wild-eyed for the average North London Guardianista, let alone the highly regulated yet highly contented citizens of Jante-law Scandinavia, but moderately cuddly, in a Californian hot-tub kind of way—and you won't be far off) and the older and more unsavoury US Libertarianism that grew out of a reaction to Roosevelt's New Deal and, along the way, took in local strains of fascism and white-supremacism:
And then there’s the uglier, darker side of the Kochs’ libertarianism on display in Reason’s archives: the fringe-right racism and fascism that the movement has tried to downplay in recent years to appeal to progressives and non-loonie techies. Throughout its first two decades, in the 1970s and 1980s, Reason supported apartheid South Africa, and attacked anti-apartheid protesters and sanctions right up to Nelson Mandela’s release, when they finally dropped it.
The two libertarianisms — the hick fascism version owned by the Koch brothers, essentially rebranding Joe McCarthy with a pot leaf and a ponytail; and Silicon Valley’s emerging brand of optimistic, half-understood libertarianism, part hippie cybernetics, part hot-tub-Hayek — should have met and merged right there in the Bay Area. And yet — they really were different, fundamentally different. The libertarianism of the Kochs is a direct descendant of the Big Business reaction against FDR’s New Deal, when the DuPont oligarchy created the American Liberty League to undo new laws establishing Social Security and labor union rights. Their heroes are the America Firsters led by Charles Lindbergh. And they haven’t stopped fighting that fight to dismantle the New Deal and everything that followed, even though most Americans have only a dim understanding of what that political war was about, and how its redistribution of political power still shapes our politics today. For the Kochs and their die-hard brand of libertarianism, that war with FDR and the New Deal is fresh and raw, and still far from resolved.Finally, here is a quite decent biographical comic about Ayn Rand, which manages to be somewhat sympathetic whilst not hiding that she was a generally awful human being across the board. (And isn't that her appeal? Not that she was a decent person, but that she gave assholes permission, with the diploma-mill authority of the language of philosophy, to be assholes and regard themselves not only as decent human beings but superior to the losers around them.)
The results of Eurovision 2014 are in, and, as reported here, the big winner was Austria's Conchita Wurst, a bearded drag performer, with a resolute and melodramatic torch song titled Rise Like A Phoenix. Wurst (whose real name is Tom Neuwirth) won a runaway victory, with 290 points and a string of 12s, including ones from countries who might otherwise haver found a bearded drag performer too transgressive. The runner-up was the Netherlands, 52 points behind with a rather nice piece of slow-burning Americana.
2014 was arguably the most geopolitically charged Eurovision Song Contest in years, if not decades; the kitschy music equivalent of the World Chess Championship of 1972, in that, within its formalised, tightly circumscribed arena, the tensions of an active geopolitical fault line manifested themselves. As back then, the fault line was between the West and Russia, only the ideologies and alignments were different.
One thing that was evident was a collapse of Russia's public image at Eurovision; no longer were they another country in friendly competition; they were the enemy, the face of oppression. Their performers (two teenaged girls who, to be fair, probably had little to do with the invasion of Crimea or anti-gay laws) were booed, as was their announcer during the voting, or the few instances of other countries, mostly former Soviet satellite states, giving Russia douze points. Also telling were the low scores which Russia got; whereas in the past, states bordering Russia or containing large Russian-speaking populations (as most former Soviet republics did, thanks to Stalin's population transfer programmes) could be counted on to give Mother Russia a solid vote, this largely seemed to collapse. This seems to support reports of a schism between ethnic Russian minorities in countries such as the Baltic states and the state of Russia, with many Russian-speaking citizens of other countries deciding that their feelings for their linguistic homeland don't translate into loyalty to an aggressive authoritarian regime.
An obvious proximate cause of this collapse was the Ukrainian crisis; within days of the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia annexing the Crimea and making threatening noises at the rest of Ukraine (and some to say Finland, the Baltic States or even Alaska may be next in the hungry Red Bear's sight). Finally, the half-hearted pretence that Russia was a democracy (albeit a managed one, like, you know, Singapore or someone) and a member in good standing of the community of peaceful, cooperative nations was discarded for good, and a more brutal, Hobbesian order asserted itself for all to see. And no longer shackled by the need to feign liberalism or tolerance, Russia has been moving as rapidly at home as it has abroad; just this week, a law requiring bloggers to register with the government has been passed.
Russia's anti-gay laws, and the tacitly state-sanctioned persecution of gay Russians by vigilante groups had already been on the radar, particularly in the context of Eurovision (which, whilst not specifically a gay event, has always had a strong gay following, because camp). The disproportionately harsh prosecution of Pussy Riot, whilst attracting less criticism in more conservative countries, didn't do Russia any favours either, and the gradual closing down of opposition media and occasional unsolved murders of journalists did not make for an optimistic mood. Recently, these elements have been converging to form an image not of a country struggling with democracy and pluralism, but one governed by an ideology which holds these ideas in contempt as signs of weakness, a country where closing itself off against the outside world. The ideology of Putin's Russia is what they call the Russkaya ideya (Russian Idea), or sometimes “Eurasianism” or “National Bolshevism”; explicitly anti-liberal, mystical rather than rationalistic, strongly authoritarian and hostile to foreign influences. The ideology is new, though it is synthesised from a strain of absolutism that has existed in Russia, in one form or another, since the time of the Czars: the State being at the centre of things (the “unique state-government civilisation” that is Russia, according to its ideologues), and all power flowing from it. Even the Russian Orthodox Church, with its enhanced influence in the new order, is subordinate to the state; in Russia, God serves the Czar.
It is not clear whether, had Russia kept its troops within its borders, paid lip service to liberalism and pluralism and not said anything about gays and “traditional values”, Conchita Wurst would have won, certainly by such a large margin; her song was good, in a Bond-theme sort of way, but not overwhelmingly superior to everything else. The Netherlands' entry (which came second), for example, was quite good, and there was a sentimental case for giving the gong to Sweden, it being the 40th anniversary of ABBA winning and all. (Sweden's entry was in the good-but-not-memorable Eurovision standard basket, which, geopolitics notwithstanding, might well have sufficed.) Undoubtedly some of the douze points Austria got were a vote not so much for the music but for what it represented and, perhaps more importantly, against what an endorsement of it represented a rejection of.
With liberalism as anathema to this new cult of Holy Russia, Eurovision has been in its sights for a while; Russian legislators have condemned it since last year, and there are calls to set up a rival one, one with firmly enforced “traditional values”. (This wouldn't be the first time something similar happened; during the Cold War, the Warsaw Pact countries briefly attempted to run a song contest to rival Eurovision; it was held in Poland, and was by all accounts a ramshackle affair. Interestingly, neutral Finland participated in both Eurovision and it.) In any case, Conchita Wurst's resounding victory will probably do little to calm the situation, but is likely to embolden those in Russia calling for restrictions on such foreign imports. (Their proposed solution, to omit the offending song in Russia, would be forbidden under EBU rules; some years ago, Lebanon ended up dropping out of Eurovision because the rules did not permit it to ban its citizens from voting for Israel.) It would be unsurprising if Russia (and perhaps some politically dependent states like Belarus) are notably absent from next year's contest, and the new cultural iron curtain becomes slightly more opaque.
Another interesting consequence may be that of Russia ending up owning a certain type of reactionary conservatism, making it less palatable abroad, and forcing conservatives in eastern Europe to choose between siding with the Great Bear across the border or siding with the gays and feminists within their own borders, establishing a geopolitical schism much like the Cold War one, only this time with elements of the Right rather than the Left being beholden to Moscow. We are already seeing admiration for Putin from the envious beta-males of the populist Right, from UKIP in Britain to teabaggers in America; if Russia succeeds in establishing a “Conservative International“ (along the lines of Stalin's Comintern) and drawing like-minded reactionaries and authoritarians abroad into its orbit, we may soon see Alexander Dugin's books on Eurasianism (in English translation, from a state-run publishing house in Moscow) alongside the Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises and Bill O'Reilly that fill the reading lists of the right-wing fringe.
An article looking at the state of the neo-Nazi extreme-right fringe in Australia today; in short, there are a number of small, fractious groups who identify with Nazism, tend towards violence as a mode of action and are often influenced by groups from abroad. These are distinct from, and not to be confused with, the somewhat less batshit far-right groups, with neither side wishing to be associated with the other:
Thankfully, while accounts of less serious forms of harassment typically go unreported, reports of assaults such as that committed against Minh Duong are rare, neo-Nazi violence having peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Further, collaboration between openly neo-Nazi groups and white nationalist or neo-fascist political parties like Australia First is generally low-key, with neither camp wanting to be associated too closely with the other. Other far-right groups are split on the subject of whether "The Jew" or "The Muslim" poses the greatest threat to White Australia.While Australia's neo-Nazi skinheads may have little to do with its common-or-garden fascists and "racial nationalists", they have found acceptably zealous comrades abroad:
Australia First has declared itself in political solidarity with the neo-Nazi Greek organization Golden Dawn. In December 2013 in Sydney, it helped to organise a rally outside the Greek consulate in order to protest criminal charges against the organization. In Melbourne, Golden Dawn has recently opened an office, though its precise location remains a secret. While generally low-key and currently enjoying little support among the local Greek population, the group has had a presence at several Greek rallies. Local Greek antifascists understand it has also been engaged in fundraising, with the money raised being used to help finance Golden Dawn’s violent activities in Greece.
The latest idea making the rounds of the fringes of the Libertarian Right (and, to be fair, the Libertarian Right is a fractal body that is 99.999% fringe): Neoreaction, also known as Libertarian Monarchism or, among those partial to wearing fedoras and goatees, the “Dark Enlightenment”; the idea that, perhaps, the Enlightenment and the rise of democracy wasn't such a good idea, and a return to absolute monarchy would be better for freedom:
“Demotist systems, that is, systems ruled by the ‘People,’ such as Democracy and Communism, are predictably less financially stable than aristocratic systems,” Anissimov writes. “On average, they undergo more recessions and hold more debt. They are more susceptible to market crashes. They waste more resources. Each dollar goes further towards improving standard of living for the average person in an aristocratic system than in a Democratic one.”
Exactly what sort of monarchy they’d prefer varies. Some want something closer to theocracy, while Yarvin proposes turning nation states into corporations with the king as chief executive officer and the aristocracy as shareholders.Funnily enough, neoreactionary ideas overlap considerably with the Pick-Up Artist movement (which is probably where the aura of diabolic mystique that comes from calling it the “Dark Enlightenment” comes in handy); I would be surprised if the Mens' Rights movement didn't also get a look in. I wonder what else is correlated with Neoreaction: Anton LaVey-style Satanism, perhaps (which, to be fair, is essentially Ayn Rand with a Sixeventies countercultural mystique added), and/or John Norman's Gor books (as manuals for intersexual relations).
Neoreactionaries also believe in what they term “human biodiversity”, i.e., that some people and/or ethnic groups, for reasons of heredity, are simply better than others, and that current society is in the grip of a vast left-wing conspiracy (and, when you regard the Enlightenment as a mistake, everybody's left-wing) which they term “Progressivism”, or “the Cathedral”, which enforces a politically correct silence about such issues.
And here is Charlie Stross' take on the matter, where he speculates that Neoreaction is a reaction to the collapse of Neoliberalism, by removing the polite fiction of democracy and a large, prosperous middle class, and also adds the spectre of lapsed Trotskyists seeking to accelerate the collapse of Capitalism by embracing it as hard as they can:
We get former Trotskyites who have decided that the best way to achieve Communism is to encourage the worst excesses of Neoliberalism, until the system implodes under its own weight and it becomes apparent that the only way out of the rat-trap is forward on full afterburner into the Accelerationist future. They therefore establish Libertarian fronts and enthusiastically encourage the worst excesses of capitalist globalization, including the application of the shock doctrine to the western economies that originally applied it to their former colonies ... all the time living it up. (Because, let's face it, right wing think tank gurus might plausibly get to wear expensive suits, snort cocaine, and drive expensive BMWs rather than sitting around in dismal squats with leaky roofs holding self-criticism sessions like silly old-school Maoists: which lifestyle would you rather have? Alas, I am informed by Ken Macleod that the folks at Spiked Online are not in fact Gordon Gekko-like creatures of the night. Damn, I'll just have to file that caricature away for a near-future novel ...)
We also have former libertarians who, in despair at the failure of the tin idol of the free market, conclude that the Enlightenment was all some sort of horrible mistake and the only solution is to roll back the clock. Today, we are all—except for the aforementioned Neo-reactionaries—children of the Jacobin society: even modern Conservativism has its roots in the philosophy of Edmund Burke, who formulated a radical refutation of and opposition to the French Revolution—thereby basing his political theories on the axioms of his foe. As Trotsky observed, "Learning carries within itself certain dangers because out of necessity one has to learn from one's enemies." Despair is a common reaction to defeat, as is Stockholm syndrome: with the impending death of neoliberalism becoming clearer to the many libertarians who assumed it would bring about the small government/small world goals of the paleolibertarians—as it becomes clear that the fruits of neoliberalism are instability and corporate parasitism rather than liberty and justice for all—is it unreasonable of them to look to an earlier, superficially simpler settlement?And here is David Brin's take on Neoreaction.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, it seems, has a fan base in the US, whose membership leans conservative and admires his red-blooded, two-fisted old-world machismo with perhaps a hint of envy:
There are many faux Putin fans in America—those who mock the hero worship ironically or half-ironically. But plenty of his fans are serious. Three months ago, Americans for Putin, a Facebook group, sprang up "for Americans who admire many of the policies and the leadership style of Russian President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin" and think he "sounds better than the Republicrat establishment." The group has an eight-point policy platform calling for "a unified [American] national culture," a "firm stance against Israeli imperialism," and an opposition to the political correctness it says dominates Washington. Though that group is relatively small (167 likes as of Wednesday afternoon, ticking up every few hours), the Obama's-so-bad-Putin-almost-looks-good sentiment can be found on plenty of conservative message boards. Earlier this year, when Putin supposedly caught—and kissed—a 46-pound pike fish, posters on Free Republic, a major grassroots message board for the Right, were overwhelmingly pro-Putin:
"I wonder what photoup [sic] of his vacation will the Usurper show us? Maybe clipping his fingernails I suppose or maybe hanging some curtains. Yep manly. I can't believe I'm siding with Putin," one wrote. "I have President envy," another said. "Better than our metrosexual president," said a third. One riffed that a Putin-Sarah Palin ticket would lead to a more moral United States.
Speaking of the past vanquishing the future, today is the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup which, signed off by Richard Nixon, overthrew the (democratic socialist) Allende government and established the Pinochet dictatorship, a combination of classic Franco-style Iberian fascism and radical free-market ideology (courtesy of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, whom Nixon had parachuted in; Friedman went on to far greater things; advising Ronald Reagan and becoming the father of the neoliberal economic order we live in today). The Pinochet dictatorship ruled for seventeen years and crushed dissent, real and imagined, with stunning brutality, murdering Communists, trade unionists, human-rights activists, nuns and owners of suspicious literature (for example, books of art by Picasso—he was a Communist, you know—were enough) indiscriminately. Other than the big landowners whose near-feudal grip on their vast tracts of land and the lives of the peasants who came with it had been threatened by Allende, the big winners were multinational corporations (Friedman brought in a spree of privatisations, and the regime kept labour costs low and suppressed industrial complaints) and the Catholic Church (which was given a central role in the ultra-conservative society Pinochet built).
The Pinochet regime had its defenders for a long time after it fell; the most infamous was the late Margaret Thatcher, a close friend of Pinochet's who went to her grave proclaiming him to be a champion of freedom. (Either Thatcher's views or her outspokenness in them weren't widely shared at the time.) Other than that, it's mostly trolls and cranks these days, with most respectable conservatives tactfully keeping shtum (the Daily Torygraph's front page, for instance, is conspicuous in its lack of mention of this anniversary). As memory of the dictatorship's atrocities recedes into the past and witnesses die, however, we will undoubtedly see it rehabilitated by the self-styled mavericks of the Right, in the way that Spain's conservatives are rehabilitating the Franco regime, and the cult of Mussolini is enjoying renewed popularity in Italy; perhaps in ten years' time, we'll see a spate of articles by the rising stars of free-market thinktanks about the 50th anniversary of the Liberation Of Chile From Socialism.
A piece in The Quietus about the rise of the “trollitician”, a type of gleefully objectionable right-wing populist whose shtick is that the “silent majority”—middle-aged straight white men, Christians, motorists, smokers, whatever—are now being oppressed by an all-powerful alien hegemony (variously defined as “the trendy Left”, “political correctness”, “health and safety” or “Cultural Marxism”) which is denying their God-given rights as straight, affluent white men, from smoking in the pub to spanking their children to slapping the secretary's bottom when she walks past or cracking racist jokes in public:
“Today, we throw off our chains. Today is the day that, finally, we can say 'no', and to mean 'no'. 'No' to speed cameras, 'no' to overgenerous maternity pay, 'no' to wheelchair ramps and to cushy holidays for juvenile delinquents! 'No' to trendy teachers and the Marxist curriculum! 'No' to new mosques and gay marriage and, especially, to gay marriage in new mosques! 'No' to endless apologising for the slave trade, and for the Empire: after all, everyone's been invaded at some point! And it was ages ago! 'No' to striking nurses and firemen, and 'no' to the union leaders who still – still, can you believe it? - have us by the balls! What's wrong with a bit of sodding common sense? Look, some of our best friends are black! If they can take a laugh and a joke, I don't know why that Owen Jones and Laurie Penny bloody can't. And we'll say 'yes', too. 'Yes' to the property ladder. 'Yes' to golf clubs, to kit cars and the neighbourhood watch! 'Yes' to new, better wedding vows: 'Do you take this fine piece of totty to be your lawfully wedded crumpet?' 'Yes' to the Royal Family – I'm not that bothered myself, but, let's face it, they bring the tourists in and older people like them. Think about it. Think about how happy they make your gran, you wouldn't want to take that away from her, would you? We'll celebrate the Best of British – Churchill and Brunel and Nelson. Dogged, determined, wouldn't take 'no' for an answer, cut through the red tape. Where's all that now? Where's tradition? Where's 'Si fueris Romae, Romano vivito more'? What do we have instead? Communism! Great idea in theory, but it'd never work in practice; people are naturally competitive – Darwin proved this, but try telling that to the schools. All the kids ever hear these days is about how everything we've done is wrong. But it's stopping now. No more, we say, no more of this nonsense. Because today, Rugby Club Land dares to do more than whisper the word, and instead shouts it out loud, proud and British – 'INDEPENDENCE'.”
The altering of the dimensions of the argument is where the likes of Bloom become significant. Their work is twofold. On one hand, they consume the energies of the left through irritation: while we know what they're saying is essentially dumb and contradictory, we still feel obliged to respond (as I'm doing here). For conservatives – from the rabid right to the parish council – they serve to stoke a sense that it's the dominant sections of society (the white, the male, the heterosexual, the middle class) who are getting it in the neck. If one read nothing but the Daily Mail it would be easy enough to become convinced that Britain really was a country in which it was possible to be oppressed and persecuted for being a straight bloke with a Lexus. The new mythology states that the left are dictating the political sphere and, in doing so, hammering the "ordinary people in the rugby and cricket club."
Nuke the whales for Jesus: In another example of how politically polarised the US culture war is, research from the US has shown that self-identified “conservatives” are less likely to buy lightbulbs labelled as energy efficient, for ideological reasons; i.e., because, even if such bulbs did save one electricity, buying them would be a treasonous endorsement of the liberals' world-view:
"Our results demonstrated that a choice that wasn't ideologically polarizing without a ("protect the environment") label became polarizing when we included that environmental labeling," Gromet said. "We saw a significant drop-off in conservative people choosing to buy a more expensive, energy-efficient option."
"So it makes that choice unattractive to some people even if they recognize that it may be a money-saving choice. When we asked afterward, those consumers identified the CFL bulbs as providing greater monetary savings over time. But they would forgo that option when that product was made to represent a value that was not something they wanted to be identified with." (See related: "Missing the Chance for Big Energy Savings.")
Recently, celebrity right-wing intellectual Niall Ferguson caused a stir when, during an investors' conference, he implied that economist John Maynard Keynes did not care about the future, on the grounds of being childless and gay. The comments seemed to have been an attempt to attribute Keynes' famous quote, “in the long run, we are all dead”, to an amoral nihilism that comes from neglecting one's duty to reproduce in favour of a decadent hedonism and aestheticism, and thus to tar Keynes' model of government borrowing and economic stimulus, popular amongst the left of the political spectrum but anathema to the neoliberal right, with the brush of this effete, degenerate nihilism:
Another reporter, Tom Kostigen of Financial Advisor, gave a longer account. Kostigen wrote that Ferguson had also made mention of the fact that Keynes had married a ballerina, despite his gay affairs. "Ferguson asked the audience how many children Keynes had. He explained that Keynes had none because he was a homosexual and was married to a ballerina, with whom he likely talked of 'poetry' rather than procreated," Kostigen wrote. He added that the audience at the event went quiet when the remarks were uttered.Ferguson has apologised unreservedly for the remarks once they became public, calling them “stupid and tactless”; chances are that they've served their purpose as a dog whistle, and many of the sorts of people who see “Cultural Marxism” and decadent weakness all around them will agree wholeheartedly.
While Ferguson was rightly excoriated for the anti-gay tone of the remarks, there has been less comment on the other part of his statement, the assertion, still commonly held in many places, that childless people are selfish, amoral nihilists, who refuse to grow up and shoulder their responsibility:
There is, among many otherwise intelligent individuals, an assumption that those of us who make a positive choice to not reproduce are selfish, rootless and have no concern about future generations or the planet. But those who have their own children often forget about the world and just worry about their own ever shrinking one.
I have seen the most passionately committed feminist activists go gaga once they give birth. All the promises such as "I'll still come on that march/go to that conference/burn down that sex shop" disappear when they sprog. All those in my circle with offspring seem to become unhealthily obsessed with their own little world. Principles go out of the window ("I still hate the private education system/healthcare but I am not putting my politics before my children"), and socialising becomes impossible.Big families and the political Right have gone hand-in-hand for a while. Meanwhile, the white-supremacist British National Party, feeling the angry-white-people vote taken away by the less overtly fascistic UKIP, is encouraging its supporters to lie back and think of
"I know, by now you will be giggling over this suggestion. But think about it, nationalists need to buck the trend of 1.8 children per white household. We need to aim between 3 and 4 children each if not more," he writes. "And the bonus is that making babies is fun! So fellow nationalists, less TV and more fun! Let's do our bit for Britain and our race."
Matthew Collins, a former BNP member and now an anti-racism activist, said the post was an attempt by the party to get some attention after its poor election results. "It's tongue in cheek but there is a serious point. Griffin is always going on about being outbred and in the past he has said members need to put away their boots and go and meet women. The problem is that your typical BNP member is a social pariah who is more into pornography than starting a family," he saidA more frightening possibility would be if these people are successfully persuaded to do their duty, especially with the BNP's record on gender relations (they're not in favour of womens' rights; one of their MPs is on record as saying that women should be “struck like a gong”). I wonder in how many suburban culs-de-sac in BNP heartland, aspiring Josef Fritzls are now drawing up plans for soundproofing their basements and making notes on the movements and likely racial purity of fit-looking local shopgirls.
A piece in the Guardian looking at what exactly is taught in the Christian Fundamentalist academies enthusiastically enabled by the Tories' education reforms:
In an English test, students face the following multiple-choice question:
(29) Responsible citizens will vote for political candidates who
a. promise to provide good paying jobs for all those who are out of work
b. promise to cut back on both government services and spending and cut taxes
c. promise to raise taxes on "big business" and use the money to help the poor
d. promise to provide child-care services for all mothers who need to work
(The "correct" answer is b.)
A church history assessment contains these questions: (1) The four foes of the faith considered in this Pace are____________.
(Answer: "rationalism, materialism, evolutionism, and communism".)
(2) The foe of the faith that takes in all the other three foes and is organised against the church is _________.
In economics, Keynesian ideas are wrong while Adam Smith's are right. In geography, the prosperity of nations is clearly linked to the amount of Christian influence ("God blessed the United States, and it became the strongest and most prosperous nation on Earth"). In US history, it is taught that Jesus commanded us to make a profit; giving "handouts to citizens" was contrary to the intentions of America's hallowed founding fathers; nontaxpayers should not vote; and it is wrong for governments to provide welfare for citizens. "Liberals" receive particular criticism.Which sounds like the plan is to build up a Religious Right bloc who can be counted on to vote Tory, contribute to election campaigns, go out letterboxing for campaigns rain or shine, and wage holy war against the Left in all its forms; i.e., the crystal meth of right-wing politics. It's a rush when you start, but before you know it, your party is beholden to religious fundamentalists and unable to shake them off even when facing electoral annihilation from those who don't count themselves among their ranks; this happened to the Republicans in the US, and for all the voices calling for modernisation, they're in no hurry to go cold turkey and go even further into the wilderness.
America's progressives are celebrating, and the rest of the world breathing a collective sigh of relief, as Barack Obama retains the presidency. Obama beat off a challenge from a radicalised Republican Party, so drunk on rage, xenophobia and the heady vapours of Fox News' propaganda that at one point they made whether one is for or against rape into a political litmus test issue. The Republicans, taken over largely by angry old white men fearful of their country being taken over by people unlike them, fielded an entire circus of freakishly hardline candidates (whom they referred to, in what could only be euphemism, as “conservatives”) before settling on Mitt Romney, a billionaire corporate raider of exceptional moral flexibility, whose talents enabled him to repudiate his formerly moderate views and set his guns on Obama's health care law, despite having created the state law which inspired it. In the end, Romney failed to inspire, and so the lesser evil won. To be fair, Obama the lesser evil by a sizeable margin, though in a two-party state as big as the US, there is no way he could be anything but the lesser evil by definition.
And a few more interesting odds and ends about the election and its aftermath:
- Time Magazine has a piece on the Obama campaign's impressive data-mining operation; it seems that everything, from fundraising to campaign advertising, was instrumented, measured and tested and had the hell analysed out of it, almost as if it were a Google product.
- How the Republicans blinded themselves to what was actually happening by virtue of smoking the heady opiates of conspiracy theory and self-delusion:
Before rank-and-file conservatives ask, "What went wrong?", they should ask themselves a question every bit as important: "Why were we the last to realize that things were going wrong for us?"
In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood's convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama's America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense -- not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there's no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it's often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.I wonder whether the Republicans will engage with mainstream reality more, or whether they'll reach for the comforting crystal meth of Fox News to help pick themselves up.
- And the fallout from the US Right continues: Donald Trump calls for a revolution and others call for a third party to arise, obviously not having thought that hard about the brutally unforgiving mathematics of a first-past-the-post electoral system.
- Obama's victory has also been a victory for progressive politics in the US: Four states voted to legalise gay marriage, and Wisconsin elected the US's first openly lesbian senator. Meanwhile, Colorado voted to legalise recreational marijuana consumption. Not medical marijuana with its inherent rationalisations, but smoking pot to get high. Of course, the federal government is likely to smack this down, and it'll probably go through the courts for some time, but it could be a big crack in the War On Drugs. On the flipside, the two Republican senatorial candidates who spoke out in favour of rape were soundly defeated, hopefully burying that particular unpleasant lunacy once and for all.
- Speaking of the courts, one of the side-effects of Obama's win is that the task of appointing at least one Supreme Court justice, and possibly as many as three, is likely to fall to him, meaning that the Supreme Court may well shift in a more progressive direction.
- Had America's Muslims voted as they did in 2000, Romney would have won; I wonder what happened...
- And then there's that teenage girl in Georgia who, if Obama won, threatened to move to Australia, which has a Christian president (sort of like the Mormon Mitt Romney and unlike the Christian Barack Obama then?). To be fair, one can forgive a teenager in Georgia for not knowing that Tony Abbott's title is “PM-in-waiting”.
With only days to go until the US Presidential election approaches, a poll states that 68% of registered Republican voters believe in the reality of demonic possession, compared to only 48% believing in the reality of climate change.
Meanwhile, The Baffler has a piece on the nexus between direct-mail con artists and Movement Conservatism in the US. The thesis of this essay is that the US Right today has a culture built on paranoia, a distrust of critical thought and a tolerance of lying, and that this culture is partly due to from a system of highly successful multi-level marketing cons, get-rich-quick scams and crooked fundraising operations wrapped in inflammatory calls to urgent action attached parasitically to the conservative movement for half a century. This state of affairs had modest beginnings in the 1960s, as the wake of the political autoimmune disorder that was McCarthyism was bleeding into the rise of the civil-rights movement and everything from modern art to teenage rock'n'roll were assaulting the relaxed and comfortable status quo of the extended 1950s. (The full cultural horror of the Sixeventies had yet to make an appearance, but it would, in turn, prove highly profitable.) It all started when a canny businessman acquired a list of Republican Party donors and and started using it to make money from the fearful and credulous, establishing a system of fundraising for right-wing causes which, conveniently, absorbed most of its takings in administrative expenses, leaving little for fighting imaginary Communist abortionists. This, in turn, was followed by an ecosystem of parasites, selling everything from miracle cures to investment strategies the pinko liberals don't want you to know about to the movement-conservative demographic, and reinforcing a culture of paranoia, demonisation of a nefarious Other and a convenient detachment from objectively measurable reality, culminating in the political climate today:
In 2007, I signed on to the email lists of several influential magazines on the right, among them Townhall, which operates under the auspices of evangelical Stuart Epperson’s Salem Communications; Newsmax, the organ more responsible than any other for drumming up the hysteria that culminated in the impeachment of Bill Clinton; and Human Events, one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite publications. The exercise turned out to be far more revealing than I expected. Via the battery of promotional appeals that overran my email inbox, I mainlined a right-wing id that was invisible to readers who encounter conservative opinion at face value.Dear Friend: Do you believe that children should have the right to sue their parents for being “forced” to attend church? Should children be eligible for minimum wage if they are being asked to do household chores? Do you believe that children should have the right to choose their own family? As incredible as they might sound, these are just a few of the new “children’s rights laws” that could become a reality under a new United Nations program if fully implemented by the Carter administration. If radical anti-family forces have their way, this UN sponsored program is likely to become an all-out assault on our traditional family structure.In this respect, it’s not really useful, or possible, to specify a break point where the money game ends and the ideological one begins. They are two facets of the same coin—where the con selling 23-cent miracle cures for heart disease inches inexorably into the one selling miniscule marginal tax rates as the miracle cure for the nation itself. The proof is in the pitches—the come-ons in which the ideological and the transactional share the exact same vocabulary, moral claims, and cast of heroes and villains.
It’s time, in other words, to consider whether Romney’s fluidity with the truth is, in fact, a feature and not a bug: a constituent part of his appeal to conservatives. The point here is not just that he lies when he says conservative things, even if he believes something different in his heart of hearts—but that lying is what makes you sound the way a conservative is supposed to sound, in pretty much the same way that curlicuing all around the note makes you sound like a contestant on American Idol is supposed to sound.
The Cold War isn't over everywhere: An article in Foreign Policy accuses the authors of travel guides of fashionable leftist sympathies, falling over themselves to praise anti-US dictators like Castro, Chavez and Ahmadinejad and enthusing about how gloriously free (of Coca-Cola and McDonalds, that is) Pyongyang is whilst trotting out the same old obesity/religion/guns/geographical ignorance stereotypes whenever America is mentioned.
There's a formula to them: a pro forma acknowledgment of a lack of democracy and freedom followed by exercises in moral equivalence, various contorted attempts to contextualize authoritarianism or atrocities, and scorching attacks on the U.S. foreign policy that precipitated these defensive and desperate actions. Throughout, there is the consistent refrain that economic backwardness should be viewed as cultural authenticity, not to mention an admirable rejection of globalization and American hegemony. The hotel recommendations might be useful, but the guidebooks are clotted with historical revisionism, factual errors, and a toxic combination of Orientalism and pathological self-loathing.
THERE IS AN almost Orientalist presumption that the citizens of places like Cuba or Afghanistan have made a choice in rejecting globalization and consumerism. From the perspective of the disaffected Westerner, poverty is seen as enviable, a pure existence unsullied by capitalism. Sainsbury refers to Cuban food as "organic" and praises the Castro brothers' "intellectual foresight [that] has prompted such eco-friendly practices as nutrient recycling, soil and water management and land-use planning." Meager food rations and the 1950s cars that plod through Havana's streets, however, don't represent authenticity or some tropical version of the Western mania for "artisanal" products, but, rather, failed economic policy. It's as much of a lifestyle choice as female circumcision is in Sudan.It may well be that the authors of the guidebooks are a cabal of Cultural Marxists, and that the Communists who (according to Margaret Thatcher) run the BBC, and thus Lonely Planet, are pushing the doctrinaire anti-US line. (I don't doubt that, among travel writers, there are some who subscribe to a romanticised, orientalist leftism, to the point of making apologies for the other side; I once read a somewhat myopic travelogue set in the two halves of Berlin in the 1980s, by an English author who delighted in contrasting the refreshing joy of the East (and dismissing as embittered hacks the dissidents who lost their jobs for criticising it) with the abject, junky-squat nihilism of the West.) On the other hand, a more economical explanation is in the nature of guidebooks and their function.
Guidebooks, by definition, are intended to be taken to the countries they describe as guides. If those countries lean towards totalitarianism, books which criticise their regimes, or reflect too strongly the point of view of the hostile state in which they were published, might not make it in through the border, or may cause trouble for the hapless tourist who buys them. As such, it makes sense that guidebooks to authoritarian states have, by definition, to be somewhat fawning, at the very least refraining from any criticism more than strictly necessary to be credible to a Western tourist and to leaven that with some praise of the President-for-life, explanations for why his secret police are not at all menacing and aspersions on the sorts who would criticise his beneficent rule. (I would venture that this wouldn't apply merely to fashionably anti-American states with iconically stylish martyred leaders: I'm guessing a tourist guidebook to Pinochet's Chile (which was, after all, a US-backed libertarian/authoritarian dictatorship) wouldn't have gone on about the death squads, human rights abuses and the optimism of the Allende years. Similarly, were the US to somehow roll back the First Amendment and criminalise hostile speech, I suspect that even the hippies in the Lonely Planet boardroom and the Communists in the BBC who control the purse strings would, from within their haze of funny-smelling cigarette smoke, decide to drop all superfluous references to guns, televangelists and junk food and stick to praising the beauty of the Grand Canyon and the prodigious variety of taco trucks.
The president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, agricultural scientist Nina Fedoroff, has spoken out about a rising anti-scientific mood, largely triggered by corporate-funded populist attacks against science:
As Fedoroff pointed out, university and government researchers are hounded for arguing that rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are changing the climate. Their emails are hacked while Facebook campaigns call for their dismissal from their posts, calls that are often backed by rightwing politicians. At the last Republican party debate in Florida, Rick Santorum insisted he should be the presidential nominee simply because he had cottoned on earlier than his rivals Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney to the "hoax" of global warming.
"Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year's presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying," said Professor Naomi Oreskes, of the University of California, San Diego.This phenomenon is not confined to the United States; Canada's stridently right-wing government has prohibited its scientists from speaking to the public without explicit government vetting. Similar things happened in Australia under the Howard government, and chances are that political censorship of research will return with a vengeance when newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott moves to repay his debts to the mining industry.
Meanwhile, back in the US, the Tea Party and similar right-wing populists are organising against environmental programmes, which they see as parts of a United Nations and/or Communist plot against the American way of life. You see, building bike lanes and high-speed railways is just a plot to coerce the free American people into giving up their SUVs, McMansions and God-given freedom and submitting to collectivisation like the wretched inhabitants of hellholes like Sweden and Switzerland. And as for smart electric meters, they're part of a plot to bring in a Communist dictatorship, just like water fluoridation, the invisible bar codes on road signs which will guide the Chinese UN troops massing south of the Mexican borders as they herd Christian patriots to the reeducation camps, and the Computer God Frankenstein Controls:
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions. “It sounds a little on the weird side, but we’ve found we ignore it at our own peril,” said George Homewood, a vice president of the American Planning Association’s chapter in Virginia.
In June, after President Obama signed an executive order creating a White House Rural Council to “enhance federal engagement with rural communities,” Fox programs linked the order to Agenda 21. A Fox commentator, Eric Bolling, said the council sounded “eerily similar to a U.N. plan called Agenda 21, where a centralized planning agency would be responsible for oversight into all areas of our lives. A one world order.”
In between the recent rounds of Republican primaries, America's motley tribes of self-identified conservatives have recently gathered at the Conservative Public Action Conference, which, from what I imagine, is sort of like a sci-fi convention only with more flags, eagles, Bibles and rifles, where the various factions of America's right, from theocratic fundamentalists to Randian anarchocapitalists, from don't-tread-on-me isolationists to neocon warhawks, gather to celebrate not being liberals. But it's not all politics; every so often, the modern conservative's thoughts turn to love. Which is why they had a seminar on "conservative dating". Which, rather than being about showing up how to ask her father for permission to take her to the movies and the interpersonal distances allowed at the various stages of courtship, was a pick-up seminar put on by one Wayne Elise, a self-identified Libertarian calling himself "The Juggler":
On Thursday, the threads Elise wears seem inspired by Tom Cruise's character in "Magnolia": black pants, a black shirt (several buttons undone), black shoes and a large white belt. His hair is cut short and stubble remains strategically on his face. It's conservative fare by Los Angeles standards -- where he's from -- but at CPAC he might as well be naked.
At 43 years old, Elise is offering more than advice. He's offering life lessons. Sitting several rows in front of him in the McKinley Room inside the Marriott Wardman hotel in Woodley Park is his wife of one year. He "seduced" her, he proclaims, "using a pity game." Exactly what that is, is left unclear. His wife seems a touch embarrassed.Among words of advice doled out by Elise: walking around taking Polaroid pictures of each other makes a great date activity (though note the all-American Polaroid brand; Lomo cameras are presumably for socialists), and if you're thinking of going to a gun club, save it for the second date, becaus, you never know, the person might be crazy.
And for those who swing the other way, a conservative conference brings with it the possibility of discrete hookups via Craigslist, as seen here.
Australia has a new media oligarch: super-rich mining magnate Gina Rinehart has just bought A$192m of shares in Fairfax, the newspaper company which controls most of the non-Murdoch papers in Australia and has, until now, mostly straddled the political centre to centre-left. It is likely that the purchase, which gives her a seat on the board of the media group, was to allow her to gain more influence over public discourse in Australia, which given her reported views, could be alarming news indeed:
Rinehart inherited more than father Lang Hancock's mining company; she took on his politics, too. Hancock was described by one journalist as "a swashbuckling right-winger who believed people and governments should bow to his will". On workers' rights, WA secession and special deals for mining, Gina is her father's daughter. John Singleton, who has been close to both, said ''a conversation with Gina was a conversation with Lang. They both had the same fanaticism.''
Last year she helped fund the Australian tour of Lord Christopher Monckton, who argues that climate science is a communist conspiracy to establish centralised world government in Europe. Monckton is a fantasist whose repeated claim to be a member of the House of Lords prompted the sitting Lords to write a public letter demanding that he "cease and desist". He also claims to have won the Nobel prize. He is better known in this country for putting a swastika next to a photo of Ross Garnaut. None of this dents Monckton's credibility in Rinehart's eyes. So she invited him to give the Lang Hancock Memorial Lecture in Perth last year.This isn't Rinehart's first foray into media ownership; last year, she bought a slice of the Channel Ten TV network; shortly afterward, Ten gave hard-right demagogue Andrew Bolt (think Australia's answer to Glenn Beck or Bill O'Reilly) a talk show.
Meanwhile, GetUp has a video of the aforementioned British climate-denialist Christopher Monckton advising mining industry insiders that Australia needs a Fox News-style right-wing propaganda channel:
"That is the way to do it," Monckton continued. "You have to capture the high ground on what are still the major media and I think will remain so for some time and until we crack that one both in the UK and Australia, we are going to suffer from a disadvantage over and against the more libertarian-minded right-thinking people in the US who have got Fox News and therefore have got things like the Tea Party movement and therefore have at last put some lead into the pencil of the Republican party.It'll be interesting to see whether Fairfax editorial policy changes, and how. Will there be a purge of left-leaning commentators? A raft of nakedly propagandistic articles? Will the propaganda be limited to things that affect the mining industry's bottom line (i.e., denouncing and destroying the Greens, cutting taxes and environmental regulations, rolling back workers' rights, removing those pesky aborigines) or will they attempt a broader programme to transform Australian society in a reactionary, conformistic, Bjelke-Petersonian direction? In any case, Australians may soon wake up to find the Murdoch papers at the leftmost extent of their public discourse.
While this is happening, the Australian Government is in the early stages of an inquiry into media diversity. If you're an Australian citizen, you can write a letter to the communications minister, urging him to prevent further media concentration.
Police in London have arrested 179 members of anti-immigrant group the English Defence League, after members of this group were planning a violent attack on Occupy LSX protesters outside St. Paul's, in the name of defending God and Country and bringing to bear the old ultra-violence against some "Cultural Marxists". I imagine that outspoken EDL fellow traveller Anders Breivik would have approved:
The English Defence League had issued statements and made threats on Facebook to burn down protesters tents if they were still outside St Paul's on Remembrance Sunday, according to Phillips.
A statement by the EDL on Thursday was read to the Occupy LSX general assembly on Friday morning to make people aware that there was a threat being made. "They called us all sorts of names in the statement and said we should leave "their" church and stop violating their religion," said Phillips.(Fascists claiming religion as exclusively theirs to defend and wield as a banner is nothing new: "Strength Through Purity, Purity Through Faith", as Alan Moore put it.)
Meanwhile, in eastern Germany, the story of three neo-Nazi fugitives who had been on the run since 1997 came to an end after two had shot each other in a trailer, and a third had been arrested after setting fire to the house they shared. Police searching the ruins of the house found a number of weapons, including the service pistol of a police officer killed by them during a bank robbery and a gun used in the execution-style murders of kebab shop owners across Germany. The three, calling themselves "Thüringer Heimschutz" (which Spiegel translates as "Thuringian Homeland Defence", though "Thuringian Homeland Security" is tantalisingly close) seemingly made little effort to hide, living openly among neo-Nazis in the town of Jena, which raises some questions of how they managed to avoid the attention of law-enforcement agencies:
Martina Renner, a ranking Left Party member in the state parliament, doubts these findings. "I think it's quite unlikely that those three lived for 10 years in Germany without having their cover blown." Even in 1998, she alleged -- when the manhunt began -- there were hints that the state's constitutional protection office had helped them disappear.
Renner says their alleged crimes even before 1998 were not just "petty crimes," but could have involved "explosions" of a "life-threatening magnitude." She says it's important to clarify just how deeply the state domestic intelligence office may have been involved. If a regional intelligence agency like that is prepared to "work with" such dangerous criminals, she says, the question arises whether the agency functions as an instrument to protect a democracy.
Dispatches from the global battle against socialism and Cultural Marxism: As a Tea Party-style convoy travels across Australia to put an end to the wicked queen's socialistic, carbon-taxing reign and restore the One True King to the Lodge, Exiled Online profiles the "true blue Aussie battlers" who constitute this movement. Not surprisingly, it's a lot less of a spontaneous grass-roots movement than the Murdoch press (which seems to be backing it in the way that Fox News backed, if not created, its US inspiration) would have you believe, apparently being run largely by a hard core of a few dozen people who met on a climate-change-denial message board long before Gillard was PM.
That’s because a typical Teabagger spectacle consists of a small nucleus of professional Astroturfers and a large nebula of weirdoes and mutants who’ve just rocked up. Some of the mutants are there to proselytize; they hope they can convince other mutants that Lady Gaga is an Illuminati puppet or that Lyndon LaRouche predicted the GFC. Other mutants appear because joining a mob helps their self-esteem. But miracle of miracles, the muties are never the ones who get interviewed, especially not by News Corp reporters. In fact, they’re really little more than film extras – their job is to stand in the background while the Astroturfers take questions and make the corporate libertarian viewpoint seem more widespread.The article looks at the opinions of the views of the organisers—the "ordinary battlers doing it hard" the Murdoch press would have you believe they are—and their fellow travellers, and finds some ugly things, from the mundane (pig farmers pissed off with the temerity of the little people complaining about the smell) to the more sinister (praise for Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile and claims that the same struggle as in Chile is taking place in Australia, conspiracy tracts published by think tanks run by mining firms), and the bizarre (peddlers of legalistic sophistries claiming that the Commonwealth Government doesn't really exist, presumably making anoyances such as tax law and pollution regulations invalid), and then takes a ride with the motley crew of teabaggers:
Didn’t take long before the ginger-haired guy started ranting about boat people, “gooks,” and immigration quotas, which he claimed was all part of a wider conspiracy to dismantle Australia’s constitutional monarchy. The reason so many Asians were being allowed into the country was so they’d vote to turn Australia into a republic, which, to Ginger, meant that “all our rights, rights we never even fucking knew about, would go down the drain.” Australian republicanism was a scheme by some shadowy organization to establish a World Government – Ginger went on about the Bilderberg Group, the Trilateral Commission, the Rothschild dynasty… I asked if he really thought someone was trying to form a World Government. “What do you think the carbon tax is for?”Meanwhile in New South Wales' state parliament, a Liberal Party MP has struck a blow against the Communist menace of traffic lights:
"Traffic lights are a Bolshevist menace... Traffic lights are things which are set up to try and control traffic to try and control individuals on the roads," Dr Phelps told Parliament.
"Roundabouts. Roundabouts represent freedom. Roundabouts represent democracy at its finest," he said.
While the mass murder of teenage Labour Party supporters in Norway has horrified the world, the killer has not been entirely without supporters. In Italy, one of Silvio Berlusconi's former ministers has defended his ideas as being "in the defence of western civilisation". Meanwhile in the US, obnoxious cretin Glenn Beck has kept true to form, comparing the Labour Party youth camp to the Hitler Youth.
Recently, a right-wing extremist massacred close to 100 people in Norway, first setting a remotely detonated car bomb near government offices in Oslo. Then, as police combed through the wreckage, he made his way to the nearby island of Utøya, where the Labour Party's youth wing were having a camp, attired in a police uniform. For an hour or two, he roamed the island, gunning down teenagers as if in a video game, only surrendering when the police arrived.
This post is not so much about the events as they happened (there is no point in picking over the gruesome details of an atrocity), nor about the murderer's political beliefs and agenda (which should be regarded with the contempt they deserve, and not dignified with a place in the arena of debate), but rather about the media response; in particular, the immediate assumption, and wild speculation, that the massacre was the work of Islamic terrorist groups. From the first reports of the explosion, there was an immediate flurry of speculation: why are the Muslims attacking Norway (is it support for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process? reprinting of Danish newspaper cartoons? Or just because nobody expects an attack on Norway?) Even when reports came in of a gunman attacking a Labour Party camp, the media didn't twig to the fact that, from the point of view of al-Qaeda-style jihadists, restricting one's attacks to one political faction of infidels rather than going for maximum carnage made little sense, and that it looked more like the motive of some kind of neo-Nazi or far-right group.
The Murdoch empire, bloodied but unbowed by its recent lapse of control over Britain's (and possibly America's) political establishment, led the charge, not unlike the corpse of El Cid lashed to his horse. The Sun quickly rushed out a front page blaming al-Qaeda, though then hurriedly pulped it when the facts came in. Not to be outdone, on the other side of the Atlantic where they do things differently, Fox News played true to character, announcing that the massacre was the first incident of non-Islamic terrorism since 1995. Terrorism, you see, is a pathology peculiar to the foul Mohammedans, or at least to threatening-looking brown-skinned people who eat funny-smelling food.
Meanwhile, as the details of the murderer's beliefs emerged, so did an entirely different picture. Rather than the work of the Islamic other, the atrocity was the result of a pathological reaction against the fear of the other. The murderer turned out to be a right-wing psychopath, who set out to strike at the "cultural Marxists" (a term used by the far right to apply to anything they find disagreeable, from feminism to bad posture). He styled himself, presumably for purposes of expediency, as a Christian Fundamentalist (though claimed in his manifesto the particularly Randian view that religion is a crutch for the weak) and cultivated ties with contemporary far-right groups such as the English Defence League and the US Tea Party, as well as other anti-Muslim hate groups. (Ironically enough, he also expressed staunchly pro-Israeli opinions; I say ironically, because chances are, had he been born ten years earlier, he'd probably have been more likely to have been fire-bombing synagogues than supporting a Jewish anything. After all, the position occupied by the Muslim in the demonology of the European/American far right was, well within living memory, occupied by the Jew. In reality, of course, the Other is a McGuffin; it doesn't matter what name they go by or whether anyone has met one, as long as there is something sufficiently different to hate and fear.) Incidentally, his manifesto approvingly quoted Tory bully-boy humorist Jeremy Clarkson; make of that what you will.
Meanwhile, here is Glenn Greenwald's examination of the "terrorists-are-Muslims" subtext in news reports:
That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly. When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances. The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission. Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets -- even if the target is an invading army in their own countries -- are, by definition, Terrorists. That is why, as NYU's Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language. Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.And here is Charlie Brooker's take; somewhat more solemn than his usual column, though no less incisive.
In the US Right, repudiating The 1960s and its wave of social upheavals and looking to either 1950s America or the Victorian Era is so yesterday; the new thing is repudiating the Enlightenment and looking to the Middle Ages as a golden age of civic and private virtue, free of the heresies of secularism and egalitarianism, or so claim William S. Lind and William S. Piper:
Not surprisingly, after three centuries of “Enlightened” propaganda, almost everything modern people think they know about the Middle Ages is wrong. Medieval society not only represents the nearest man has come to building a Christian society, it was also successful in secular terms. Living standards rose, and with them population. That was true for all classes, not just the nobles. Monarchs were far from absolute—royal absolutism was in fact the latest thing in 18th-century fashion, a system for promoting rational efficiency—and subjects had extensive rights. Unlike the abstract Rights of Man, as practiced during the Jacobins’ Reign of Terror, Medieval rights were specific and real, established by precedent.
The alternate narrative’s view of what followed is selective. The Renaissance brought advances the High Middle Ages would have welcomed, including Christian humanism and the recovery of many texts from the classical world. But it also laid the basis for secular humanism, a prideful and subversive force that continues to do great damage to societies and souls alike. The Protestant Reformation pointed to some genuine abuses in the Church and also renewed the importance of Scripture. But the shattering of Christendom, the rise of an unsound doctrine of sola Scriptura, and the loss of the sacraments in much Christian worship were too high a price.The Enlightenment didn't immediately bring about the collapse of the virtuous old order, but merely weakened it and set the powderkeg, which exploded at the outbreak of World War 1:
As recently as the summer of 1914, less than a century ago, the world restored in 1814 was still recognizable. Kaisers, tsars, and kings reigned. The goodness and rightness of social classes, each with its respective duties, was acknowledged by all but Marxists. The Christian religion, if not universally believed, was generally respected. Nietzsche’s “transvaluation of all values,” in which the old virtues become sins and the old sins virtues, was regarded as the raving of a syphilitic madman.Then, the centuries-old, divinely-ordained system of monarchies fell, and the world lurched sharply towards the left, forever tainted by the original sin of Cultural Marxism (a marvellous catch-all which encompasses anything from women's rights to sagging jeans and, from what I gather, generally translates to "anything I, as a self-identified Conservative, object to"), leading directly to our present fallen world of rock'n'roll, drive-through abortion clinics and rampant Sabbath-breaking.
However, according to Lind and Piper, it need not have happened this way; had the central powers won, a balance of power would have been restored, the great monarchies shored up, the spectre of Bolshevism headed off, and the world could have shifted equally sharply to the right, and to recovering the lost virtues of the mediaeval world:
In this world, Professor Mayer’s spectrum shift to the left would never have happened. Conservative Christian monarchies would have triumphed. A spectrum shift to the right, while not inevitable, was possible; a defeated French republic might have been replaced with a monarchy. (Le Figaro: “The Estates General, deadlocked among the Legitimist, Orleanist, and Bonapartist candidates, today offered the throne of France to Prince Louis Napoleon of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha…”) It is perhaps too much to hope that the 20th century’s grimmest reaper, ideology, would have found itself in history’s wastebasket. But it would have lost to its oldest opponent, legitimism, and lost badly. It might have been sufficiently weakened to give Europe and the world a century of relative peace, like that following the settlement of 1814.
Spain's resurgent Right is moving to rehabilitate the memory of Franco. No longer a Fascist dictator whose totalitarian reign oppressed a country for two generations and left a trail of mass graves, according to Spain's Royal Academy of History, he is now merely a ruler who regrettably had to turn to authoritarian tactics to save Spain from "bandits" and "terrorists":
The fact that the dictionary has been presented under the patronage of the king himself and handsomely paid with taxpayers' money to the tune of €6.5m is doing very little to lessen the scandal many specialists and ordinary Spaniards feel at this body of work which, among other things, routinely refers to the republican side in the civil war as "the enemy" while Franco's troops are described as "the national army". Or, for example, when it praises the "pacification" of several regions, by which it means the execution of thousands of democrats, socialists, teachers and passersby in general.
Whatever the reasons, José María Aznar's eight years as prime minister between 1996 and 2004 were a great opportunity for his Popular party (PP) to distance itself from its slightly Francoist origins. But the opposite happened: it chose to legitimise Francoism instead. A whole school of revisionist historians was promoted to great success, endlessly recycling the old Francoist myths. It would have been just ridiculous were it not that at the same time the government was denying thousands of citizens the right to unearth their loved ones from the archipelago of mass graves which still covers the whole country.
And now to the US, where You Might Be A Teabagger If...:
1) You’re offended at any suggestion that the Tea Party is racist, even though nobody objects when people show up at your rallies with blatantly racist signs and slogans.
9) You believe the Citizens United decision was all about corporate “free speech,” yet you’re against the Fairness Doctrine being reenacted, because you think it’s contrary to “free speech.”(The Citizens' United decision apparently was a Supreme Court ruling that opened the doors to unlimited corporate political donations, on the basis that corporations are legally persons who have free speech rights.)
22) One of your stated concerns with Barack Obama’s candidacy, was that he was too inexperienced for the job, yet you want Sarah Palin to challenge him next year.Another sign: voting and/or agitating for lower taxes for the rich, no socialised healthcare and making it easier to dismiss workers, and justifying your views on the grounds that, even though you may be two paychecks away from homelessness, you either (a) consider yourself to be among the rich, (b) expect that you will be rich in the future, or (c) expect that your children will be rich, and don't want to poor working bums cutting into your/their anticipated wealth.
After the embarrassment of the Labour government having to sack a drug policy advisor for making a scientific case against drug prohibition, the new Con-Dem government has moved to ensure that this sort of thing does not happen again, by removing scientists from its drug control committee, and allowing the government to unilaterally decide which drugs to ban without interference from scientists who know nothing about public morality or political expediency. This, incidentally, completely discards the Liberal Democrats' platform, which promised an evidence-based drug policy centred around harm minimisation, though it has already been established that Liberal Democrat pledges made before the election are, to use a term from Australian politics, "non-core promises", so no great surprise there.
(To be fair, it could be a lot worse if the Tories had power in their own right; for one, the BBC is still standing, and the Tories' debt to News Corporation still unsettled in that regard, and there is the possibility of the electoral system being reformed. Nonetheless, the Liberal Democrats have either drank the Kool-Aid and turned into doctrinaire neo-Thatcherites or are being held hostage. Not surprisingly, they seem to be finished as a moderate, progressive third party; perhaps we can expect the old Social Democratic wing to fall off, joining that more moderate neo-Thatcherite party, Labour, with a few idealists going to the Greens, and the rump becoming the wet wing of the Tories.)
Under the new policy, scientific assessment of the danger of drugs will be replaced by a classification of drugs into two categories: "evil" and "non-evil", which relate to the spiritual and moral harm caused to the fabric of society as perceived by the readership of the Daily Mail. "Evil" drugs are those like cannabis, heroin, LSD and MDMA, whereas "non-evil" drugs include alcohol and tobacco. This is a scientific fact; there is no evidence for it, but it is a scientific fact.
After five days of Wikileaks revelations, the tide has turned; the organisation has been kicked off Amazon's servers (inspiring a boycott by Guardian readers, which Amazon presumably calculated would be less damaging than one by Fox News viewers), and a new arrest warrant has been issued for the organisation's editor-in-chief, Julian Assange. (A SWAT team is apparently on standby, awaiting the order to go in, and Special Branch snipers are positioned in adjacent buildings to provide cover.) But extradition to Sweden (or the US and a civilian trial there—the death penalty being off the menu as required by extradition treaties and EU human rights laws) won't be enough for some media commentators:
At this point, we are beyond indictments and courts. The damage has been done; people have died - and will die because of the actions of this puerile, self-absorbed narcissist. News reports say the WikiLeaks founder is hiding out in England. If that's true, we should treat Mr. Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him.
Mr Assange is ... an active, willful enabler of Islamic terrorism. He is as much a threat as Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahri. In short, Mr Assange is not a journalist or publisher; rather, he is an enemy combatant - and should be treated as such.Of course, to anyone who doesn't get all their information from Fox News, this is easily picked apart. For one, no credible evidence of any casualties due to information released by WikiLeaks has been produced. And, unlike the "Collateral Murder" video, this week's batch of revelations has done little damage to the United States' image (though the same can't be said for those of Russia, Italy or even the United Kingdom, which looks more and more like a Warsaw Pact-style satellite state of the US; perhaps they should rename it Airstrip One and be done with it). Furthermore, to say that Wikileaks is a terrorist organisation (as one IRA-supporting US congressman has called for) would require the word "terrorist" to be redefined far more broadly, to mean roughly "one who acts against our interests". So the calls for the execution of Assange and other principals of Wikileaks seem to be primarily a call to avenge America's honour.
The American south, as has been pointed out by numerous commentators (Joe Bageant's Deer Hunting With Jesus is highly recommended) is what anthropologists call a culture of honour, at least vestigially. The Southern values of honour, which must be avenged when insulted, come from the cattle-farming culture of the lawless Scottish borders and Northern Ireland, from which many of the original settlers came. While it originated in the economic circumstances of these regions, the culture of honour propagated in the South by cultural transmission, and its values still remain in those states. (One consequence is Southern states having significantly higher murder rates than the rest of the US; after all, when honour is on the line, backing down and talking it over is not cool.) The Southern culture of honour has recently also become one of the defining attributes of the conservative side of the American culture war, defining the modern Republican party and the Tea Party movement. Needless to say, American liberals are none too happy with this.
As such, we can look forward to a lot more posturing, chest-beating and alpha-male territorial displays from the pundits of the American Right. And, should the Republicans come to power in 2012, we may well see President Palin send a CIA hit squad out to bring back Julian Assange's head on a silver platter. (Or perhaps to bring him back alive, to be publicly executed in a televised spectacle involving monster trucks and flamethrowers; who knows.) That is, assuming that the Russians don't get him first:
The latest idea to emerge from the US's Tea Party movement: the president of a group calling itself the Tea Party Nation has called for voting rights to be restricted to property owners:
PHILLIPS: The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community. If you’re not a property owner, you know, I’m sorry but property owners have a little bit more of a vested interest in the community than non-property owners.Of course, a lot of home owners don't actually own their homes as such; the banks own the majority share of them. Taken literally, this would either restrict voting to the minority who own property outright or give the banks a legitimate block vote, along with property-holding corporations. (Given that, in the US, corporations are legally considered to be individuals, to the point where restricting corporate political donations was considered an infringement of their Constitutionally-guaranteed right of free speech, corporations dominating a property-based voting system is not implausible.) Those who don't own property would, in effect, become second-class citizens, a sort of peasantry, and America, one of the first nations to never have had aristocratic titles, would be well on the path towards reinventing feudalism with American characteristics.
(See also: Libertarian Monarchism, or why absolute monarchy looks like a better way to maintain property rights and thus freedom, if you squint, tilt your head at a certain angle and smoke a lot of crack.)
(via Boing Boing)
The heartwarming diversity of the far right (an ongoing series): Nationalist/anti-immigrant group the English Defence League, best known for their anti-Muslim marches in immigrant neighbourhoods (which, they stress, have nothing to do with hatred for brown-skinned people who pray funny and eat food that smells weird, but everything to do with saving Britain (Muslim population: 2.7%) from imminently becoming an Islamic dictatorship) are now attempting to reach out to neglected constituencies such as Jews and gays, promising not to kick their heads in if they join with them to fight the creeping Islamicisation of Britain:
It claims that these inter-faith tensions were brought into sharp focus last month when the senior US Jewish leader and Tea Party activist Rabbi Nachum Shifren denounced Islam at a EDL rally outside the Israeli Embassy in London. Israeli flags have also been spotted at several EDL demonstrations across the UK.It's not clear how genuine the suspension of the far right's traditional anti-Semitism is. Perhaps, by showing that they can break heads with the best of them, the Jews (well, at least the ones in Israel) have won the respect of the far right; no longer the effete, treacherous, baby-blood-drinking Grabblers of the Protocols, they are now seen as God-fearing cowboy frontiersmen and/or fellow shaven-headed headkickers. Or perhaps the neo-Nazis intend to deal with them once the Muslims are out of the way.
As well as aggravating religious tensions, the EDL has established a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Division to "defend" gay people from Sharia law. There are also specialist divisions for women, soldiers and disabled people. The report warns these communities to be vigilant against "selective racism" and the EDL's attempts at manipulation.The EDL are also making overtures to feminist groups, raising the spectre of the far left making common cause with Islamists; after all, the reasoning seems to go, being stoned to death under Sharia law would be worse than being struck regularly like a gong, as one of the EDL's fellow travellers from the BNP recommended.
Let it not be said that the far right are not a diverse bunch. While in Australia, Christian authoritarians flirt with Islamic-style prohibitions on female nudity, in Denmark, the anti-immigrant People's Party wants to show all immigrants videos of topless beaches, to weed out those unsuitable for Denmark's liberal culture:
A documentary film on Denmark that is shown to immigrants as part of the test for entry should include topless bathers, said Peter Skaarup, the party's foreign affairs spokesman. "If you're coming from a strict, religious society that might make you stop and think: 'Oh no,'" he told the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. "Topless bathing probably isn't a common sight on Pakistani beaches. I honestly believe "Meanwhile, an anti-immigrant party in Switzerland has launched an online campaign featuring an image of naked, distinctly Aryan-looking young women standing in Lake Zürich, contrasted with an image of women in Islamic headscarves in filthy water. Stay classy, SVP.
Why the right in Australia and the right in Europe take different sides in a hypothetical Islamism-vs.-liberalism argument is an interesting question.
Historical artefact from the American culture wars, circa 2010: The Liberal Clause: Socialism on a Sleigh, a children's story book by a demagogue from the right-wing Tea Party movement, in which an evil Obama clone gets elected as Santa Claus and proceeds to ruin Christmas, assisted by a supporting cast of caricatures of liberal political figures, politically-correct straw persons, sinister foreigners and (for some odd reason) cameo appearances by historical dictators, until a little girl catches a glimpse of "Ox News", shakes off her brainwashing and assembles a movement to depose the evil liberals. A few choice excerpts:
From now on, for ever fifteen minutes of work there had to be fifteen minutes of break time. The work day was cut from eight hours to six hours with a two hour paid lunch break. If a toy supervisor gave instructions, the union would hold a meeting with every elf to talk about how they felt about those instructions. Toy quality control was no longer allowed, because it might hurt an elf's feelings. As a result, most toys were assembled wrong and were falling apart.
On top of this, Liberal Claus eliminates toy specialists and replaces them with "general toy practitioners" who follow his instructions to only create little red train cars and nothing elseAt some point in the future, this book will either be the pride of some thrift-shop digger's ironic kitsch collection, or puzzled over by archaeologists as they debate the causes of the collapse of the American civilisation, or both.
Two German engineers has found a way around the EU's ban on incandescent lightbulbs: by selling them as "heatballs", heating devices which just happen to emit light:
Rotthaeuser studied EU legislation and realised that because the inefficient old bulbs produce more warmth than light -- he calculated heat makes up 95 percent of their output, and light just 5 percent -- they could be sold legally as heaters.
On their website, the two engineers describe the heatballs as "action art" and as "resistance against legislation which is implemented without recourse to democratic and parliamentary processes."There is a market there; a small demographic of people who prefer incandescent lightbulbs and another one of people willing to spend money for the joy of spiting the leftists, greens and other politically-correct do-gooders.
Doing nothing to kill the stereotype of Australia as a spectator sports-centered society, seven footballers are running as candidates in the upcoming Victorian state election. Tellingly, six of them are running for the right-wing Coalition (four of those for the National Party, the coalition's more conservative party). Could this be another sign of the Australian Right having embraced anti-intellectualism (which could be argued to be a traditional Australian value) as a core part of its identity, and conceded the very idea of engagement with culture and ideas more sophisticated than a gut sense of tribal belonging (or, as John Howard called it, "mateship") to the leftward end of the spectrum?
The Rolling Stone has an article by gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi looking at America's right-wing populist Tea Party movement, which started off as a vaguely Libertarian movement but has since become an incoherent tangle of old white people scared of people not like them, and is well along the path of being assimilated into a tool of America's corporate elites to dismantle the remaining regulations that stand between them and feudal dominance. Anyway, a few of the many choice passages from the article:
A hall full of elderly white people in Medicare-paid scooters, railing against government spending and imagining themselves revolutionaries as they cheer on the vice-presidential puppet hand-picked by the GOP establishment. If there exists a better snapshot of everything the Tea Party represents, I can't imagine it.
Those of us who might have expected Paul's purist followers to abandon him in droves have been disappointed; Paul is now the clear favorite to win in November. Ha, ha, you thought we actually gave a shit about spending, joke's on you. That's because the Tea Party doesn't really care about issues — it's about something deep down and psychological, something that can't be answered by political compromise or fundamental changes in policy. At root, the Tea Party is nothing more than a them-versus-us thing. They know who they are, and they know who we are ("radical leftists" is the term they prefer), and they're coming for us on Election Day, no matter what we do — and, it would seem, no matter what their own leaders like Rand Paul do.
The individuals in the Tea Party may come from very different walks of life, but most of them have a few things in common. After nearly a year of talking with Tea Party members from Nevada to New Jersey, I can count on one hand the key elements I expect to hear in nearly every interview. One: Every single one of them was that exceptional Republican who did protest the spending in the Bush years, and not one of them is the hypocrite who only took to the streets when a black Democratic president launched an emergency stimulus program. ("Not me — I was protesting!" is a common exclamation.) Two: Each and every one of them is the only person in America who has ever read the Constitution or watched Schoolhouse Rock. (Here they have guidance from Armey, who explains that the problem with "people who do not cherish America the way we do" is that "they did not read the Federalist Papers.") Three: They are all furious at the implication that race is a factor in their political views — despite the fact that they blame the financial crisis on poor black homeowners, spend months on end engrossed by reports about how the New Black Panthers want to kill "cracker babies," support politicians who think the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an overreach of government power, tried to enact South African-style immigration laws in Arizona and obsess over Charlie Rangel, ACORN and Barack Obama's birth certificate. Four: In fact, some of their best friends are black! (Reporters in Kentucky invented a game called "White Male Liberty Patriot Bingo," checking off a box every time a Tea Partier mentions a black friend.) And five: Everyone who disagrees with them is a radical leftist who hates America.
The rumours of the Australian Labor government's mandatory national internet censorship firewall being dead may be premature: the government is still planning to put the legislation forward in parliament. Of course, the numbers seem to be against them: the independents who hold the balance of power in the lower house will oppose it, as will the Greens in the Senate.
The Coalition, which has among its number many social conservatives who would welcome such a scheme (not least of all its leader, an authoritarian paternalist of the first water), has opposed it, vowing to whip its MPs to vote against it as well. However, now that it no longer needs to woo Labor voters, there is the possibility of the party changing its mind, and either supporting the filter or leaving it to a conscience vote. In either case, a whipped Labor government plus a handful of Liberal/National social conservatives could be enough to get such a filter through both houses, regardless of what the Greens, those uppity independents and the majority of the Australian public have to say.
Of course, the question remains of whether Labor would keep its faith in censorship after it no longer had to deal with a religious fundamentalist in the Senate. One theory is that Labor's pro-censorship zeal is all an act to keep Fielding on-side and get its budgets through, though in this case, it's an act which is approaching its use-by date, if not past it already. (Fielding does not have a vote on any supply bills, which won't appear until the new Senate, with Greens holding the balance of power, is in place, and while he could be petulant and uphold other legislation, it would be a bit pathetic.) Others speculate that the Great Firewall of Australia has now got a purpose beyond placating a few cranky wowsers; one theory is that, while it's ostensibly going to block illegal pornography, suicide instructions and content banned in Australia, its real purpose is to block sites used for sharing copyrighted materials. Though given that the US Government, which is pushing for a War On Copying on the scale of Nixon/Reagan's War On Drugs, has criticised the filter might count against this theory. Any others?
While we're in Australia, News Limited (roughly one half of the oligopoly which controls the Australian media) has declared open war on the Greens, with the Australian vowing to destroy them at the ballot box; the culture war against the progressive elements in Australian society is on again, if Rupert Murdoch has his way. And, with a fragile minority government in power, some are predicting all sorts of hijinks, including possibly a Murdoch-sponsored Tea Party-style right-wing protest movement.
A Lebanese-American Muslim woman wins the Miss USA beauty contest; America's right-wing commentariat goes nuts:
Conservative commentator Debbie Schlussel pulled out all the stops, using Fakih's Shia Lebanese background to brand her a terrorist "Miss Hezbollah" and dismissed the colourful business magnate Donald Trump, who is one of the sponsors of the event, as an Islamic "dhimmi".
Another problem Schlussel's conspiracy theory runs up against is the fact that Hezbollah, being a conservative Islamic organisation, it is unlikely to be recruiting a scantily clad beauty queen as an agent provocateur. In a contorted effort to explain this, Schlussel falls back on an old neocon chestnut: "Muslims frequently go against Islam in this way for propaganda purposes. It's a form of taqiyyah, the Muslim concept of deceiving infidels."
Christian Voice, a right-wing Christian Fundamentalist group in the UK has rejected all major UK parties because they're too pro-EU, pro-secularist and "pro-sodomy", and rejected the British National Party because they phrase their claims of white supremacy in the language of evolution. You can't make this sort of thing up.
(via David Gerard)
The Daily Mail Song, an exposé of the venomously right-wing, outrage-mongering British tabloid delivered in the form of a Subterranean Homesick Blues-style folk song. Brilliant and spot-on.
The virus has increased fourfold in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside, the areas of Britain where Facebook is most popular, because it has given people a new way to meet multiple partners for casual sexual encounters.
Australian far-right politician Pauline Hanson, who founded the rabidly anti-immigrant One Nation party and later ran separately on right-wing populist tickets, has announced that she is leaving Australia and plans to emigrate to the UK. She cited as her reason disappointment with the way Australia has changed.
Had she invented a time machine and gone back to the UK circa 1950, she might have a point, but these days, the UK is not so much the cradle of the white British race as another cosmopolitan melting pot, only with better curry and worse coffee. I wonder whether she'll end up joining the BNP.
Now if Pauline Hanson wanted to move to a place populated entirely by people of pure White British stock, there is one candidate: it's named Tristan da Cunha, located in the south Atlantic, accessible only by two ships a year, and its population is comprised of the descendants of British settlers. Everybody's white and either Catholic or Anglican and you can't get a decent pad thai noodles for love or money. It doesn't get much better than this, Pauline.
Decapitated by the election defeat that ended its 11-year reign, Australia's conservative Liberal Party has spent the past two years floundering without much direction. The party has just had a leadership election, which was won by Tony Abbott a hardline culture-war conservative from the Howard government, who ran on a platform of climate-change denial, defeating the incumbent, the younger, more centrist Malcolm Turnbull. And so, it appears that the Liberal Party has been infected by the prions of the degenerative disorder that is devouring the US Republican Party.
The BNP has announced that it is forming an alliance in the EU with other nationalist parties. The European Alliance of National Movements will include the likes of France's National Front and the Hungarian neofascist group JOBBIK, though has fallen short of being an EU-recognised formal political grouping, mostly because the Tories' "European Conservatives and Reformers" group has cherry-picked most of the far right MEPs.
Anyway, I give them six months before the whole thing implodes with members accusing each other of being racially inferior and/or subhuman.
In the US, a group "conservatives" have decided that the Bible, for all it's worth, has too much of a liberal bias, and thus taken it upon themselves to rewrite it in a more acceptable form. This includes the obvious things (i.e., eliminating any namby-pamby politically-correct language or phrases that make Jesus look like a goddamn hippie, and peppering it with "free market parables"; I wonder how that'll change the story about Jesus and the moneylenders), as well as other principles such as "Prefer Conciseness over Liberal Wordiness".
The project page is here. Note that it is hosted by Conservapedia, previously noted for its somewhat obsessive focus on the mechanics and perils of homosexual sex.
However, there is nothing new under the sun; in the MetaFilter thread, a former seminary student revealed how he and a friend created, as a joke, a conservative reading of the Gospel of Luke by simply inverting the sayings. Behold, the National Gospel of Liberty:
8 "And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges the poor and the outcast will be acknowledged as an outcast; 9 but whoever denies the poor and the outcast will live in peace, because they are odorous and live in fields. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the poor will be forgiven, for this is right; but whoever speaks out for the poor and the oppressed will not be forgiven. 11 When they bring you before the magistrate, and the authorities, do not worry about how you are to defend yourselves or what you are to say; 12 for you are wealthy and the wealthy need have no fear of the courts."
27 Consider the lilies! They neither toil nor spin, and so I tell you, their life is but a season, and they have no wives. Solomon had many wives, and in his glory was arrayed in garments finer than any lily of the field! 28 They are but meager grasses, fit only to be thrown into the oven, but you are precious to your Father in Heaven and your prayers have brought you great wealth.
Police in the UK are hunting a cranky old person who has been sending racially abusive letters, accompanied by clippings from the Daily Mail:
The letters, some sexually explicit in content, have been sent to schools, hospitals, mosques, universities, doctors' surgeries and private individuals, leaving some recipients "extremely distressed".
Similarities between the letters made it likely they had come from the same author. "The cursive script used in some of the letters indicates that it may be the writing of an older person. Repeat phrases used also indicate this, especially reference to 'working for 50 years' and regular reference to pensions."
Commonly used phrases in the text include "English parliament", "Exit Europe", "repatriation" and "BBC shutdown". Clippings from the Daily Mail have been included in many envelopes, which often also include cartoon drawings.The hunt has been codenamed Operation Heron; it's not clear whether this is a Brass Eye reference.
An article in the New Republic examines the rise of Ayn Rand's ideology, which asserts that one's wealth is literally proportional to one's value as a human being, selfishness is a virtue and altruism is evil, from the fringes to the mainstream of American conservative thought:
In these disparate comments we can see the outlines of a coherent view of society. It expresses its opposition to redistribution not in practical terms--that taking from the rich harms the economy--but in moral absolutes, that taking from the rich is wrong. It likewise glorifies selfishness as a virtue. It denies any basis, other than raw force, for using government to reduce economic inequality. It holds people completely responsible for their own success or failure, and thus concludes that when government helps the disadvantaged, it consequently punishes virtue and rewards sloth. And it indulges the hopeful prospect that the rich will revolt against their ill treatment by going on strike, simultaneously punishing the inferiors who have exploited them while teaching them the folly of their ways.
Today numerous CEOs swear by Rand. One of them is John Allison, the outspoken head of BB&T, who has made large grants to several universities contingent upon their making Atlas Shrugged mandatory reading for their students. In 1991, the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club polled readers on what book had influenced them the most. Atlas Shrugged finished second, behind only the Bible. There is now talk of filming the book again, possibly as a miniseries, possibly with Charlize Theron. Rand's books still sell more than half a million copies a year. Her ideas have swirled below the surface of conservative thought for half a century, but now the particulars of our moment--the economic predicament, the Democratic control of government--have drawn them suddenly to the foreground.
Around the age of five, Alissa Rosenbaum's mother instructed her to put away some of her toys for a year. She offered up her favorite possessions, thinking of the joy that she would feel when she got them back after a long wait. When the year had passed, she asked her mother for the toys, only to be told she had given them away to an orphanage. Heller remarks that "this may have been Rand's first encounter with injustice masquerading as what she would later acidly call ‘altruism.’ " (The anti-government activist Grover Norquist has told a similar story from childhood, in which his father would steal bites of his ice cream cone, labelling each bite "sales tax" or "income tax." The psychological link between a certain form of childhood deprivation and extreme libertarianism awaits serious study.)While the premises of Randian ideology—the myth of the heroic self-made man, the cirrelation between wealth and value—have a certain sort of glibly narcissistic appeal (in particular to those wishing to rationalise their beliefs in themselves as good people), they fall apart under closer examination:
Is income really a measure of productivity? Of course not. Consider your own profession. Do your colleagues who demonstrate the greatest skill unfailingly earn the most money, and those with the most meager skill the least money? I certainly cannot say that of my profession. Nor do I know anybody who would say that of his own line of work. Most of us perceive a world with its share of overpaid incompetents and underpaid talents. Which is to say, we rightly reject the notion of the market as the perfect gauge of social value.
Now assume that this principle were to apply not only within a profession--that a dentist earning $200,000 a year must be contributing exactly twice as much to society as a dentist earning $100,000 a year--but also between professions. Then you are left with the assertion that Donald Trump contributes more to society than a thousand teachers, nurses, or police officers. It is Wall Street, of course, that offers the ultimate rebuttal of the assumption that the market determines social value. An enormous proportion of upper-income growth over the last twenty-five years accrued to an industry that created massive negative social value--enriching itself through the creation of a massive bubble, the deflation of which has brought about worldwide suffering.
The reality of the contemporary United States is that, even as income inequality has exploded, the average tax rate paid by the top 1 percent has fallen by about one-third over the last twenty-five years. Again: it has fallen. The rich have gotten unimaginably richer, and at the same time their tax burden has dropped significantly. And yet conservatives routinely describe this state of affairs as intolerably oppressive to the rich. Since the share of the national income accruing to the rich has grown faster than their average tax rate has shrunk, they have paid an ever-rising share of the federal tax burden. This is the fact that so vexes the right.And here is a piece on the sociopathic dimension of Randian ideology:
Interestingly, despite her general disdain for humanity, there were people she seemed to admire greatly, such as William Edward Hickman, whose credo, "What is good for me is right," she described in her Journals as, "The best and strongest expression of a real man's psychology I have heard." But Hickman was no simple expositor of personal greed and self-interest; no mere modern day libertarian; no pedestrian practitioner of excessive self-love. No indeed. He was a sociopathic murderer. In 1927 he kidnapped a 12-year old girl from a school in Los Angeles by the name of Marian Parker, chopped off her legs, cut our her internal organs, drained all of her blood and then spread parts of her body all over the city.
Of Hickman, this sick murderer, Rand had almost nothing but positive things to say. She indeed critiqued those who would condemn Hickman's actions for having committed "worse sins and crimes," such as those she ascribed to his jury. Among those "greater" crimes--greater than mutilating a child--she included being, "Average, everyday, rather stupid looking citizens. Shabbily dressed, dried, worn looking little men. Fat, overdressed, very average, 'dignified' housewives." Their ordinariness, in other words, placed them below Hickman, in Rand's mind. "How can they decide the fate of that boy? Or anyone's fate?" she implored in her Journals.
In the US, there is a section of the population on the right who just can't stand Barack Obama or anything he supposedly stands for. The very thought of that.. man -- golDANGit! -- makes them so pig-biting mad that it cuts off the flow of oxygen to their brain cells, shutting down whatever capacities they had for critical thinking. We've already seen the results of this in things like right-wing Twitterers uncritically passing on increasingly absurd rumours about Obama's policies, and the entire "birther" movement, in which the desperate need to prove an article of faith (
"Ain't no negro my President!" "Obama is ineligible to be President") leads them to build elaborate and bizarre conspiracy theories ("Obama's parents secretly went to Kenya before he was born, and paid someone to post a birth announcement in a Hawaiian newspaper just in case he ever ran for President"), buttressed by increasingly baroque structures of evasion and supposition, whilst remaining oblivious to how ridiculously implausible the whole thing looks from outside their belief system.
Of course, wherever self-induced stupidity becomes the norm, someone will be making a profit. The US health-insurance lobby, for example, are making hay out of the fact that enough people are whipped into an apoplectic rage by the fact that there's a black man in the Whitehouse that they're willing to believe anything, such as, say, that providing government-subsidised healthcare is equivalent to Nazism and that British Nobel laureate Stephen Hawking would be dead had he been British, and be motivated by it to go out and fight for their right to be bankrupted by illness. And so, once again, the turkeys march out and loudly demand their Thanksgiving.
The latest attempt at milking the enraged mob for all its worth, though, is a bit more direct: some entrepreneurs of above-average moral flexibility are offering the pig-biting mad free software that launches denial-of-service attacks against the Whitehouse web site. The software, of course, is your common-or-garden Windows malware.
The terse spam message links to a website where prospective marks are offered money for installing the dodgy "packet flinging" tool. The attackers missed a chance to make reference to a recent mass marketing campaign from the White House justifying recent healthcare reforms that some have described as spam as supposedly justifying an "aggressive response", for example.
The "DDoS Obama" spam was one theme of a larger spam run, reports email security firm Proofpoint. Other spam messages in the series offered more typical lures, such as pornography, while again pointing to the same malware download.The spam even helpfully advised the marks that their anti-virus software might identify the downloaded software as harmful.
The Independent looks at the Tories' new allies in Brussels, or, in particular, the other prospective members of the new right-wing group they're setting up because the standard centre-right is not strident enough:
It is expected to include the Belgian Lijst Dedecker party, some of whose politicians are former members of the far-right Vlaams Belang part, whose candidates backed a statement saying: "We urgently need global chemotherapy against Islam to save civilisation", and used campaigning material featuring an ape with the words "I have not forgotten my roots ... have you?"
The Tories are also in talks with the Dutch Christian Union, which includes the SGP, a Calvinist party which believes the Bible means that women should not stand for parliament but have a "nurturing role" at home. Mr Cameron's party is also wooing the Latvian Fatherland and Freedom party, several of whose MPs marched in Riga with veterans of the Latvian SS in March.
The 25 Tories will be the biggest national team in the new group. Its other prominent members will be the Polish Law and Justice Party, which has 15 MEPs, and the Czech Civic Democrats, which has nine. The Polish party, headed by the controversial Kaczynski twins, is anti-gay, and banned gay-rights processions. In talks on EU voting power, it demanded that Poland's losses at the hands of Hitler be added to its current population so it would have more clout.Noted by their absence are the other right-wing British parties, i.e., the UKIP (which is essentially the voice of Daily Mail-reading Britain) and the BNP (who are disadvantaged by being fascists with a high profile in Britain, unlike the Latvian Freedom and Fatherland party). The Tories are also trying to block the Italian Northern League from joining, though are in a quandary: they need MEPs from at least 7 EU states for the group to officially exist, and there are too few parties which aren't either happy in a mainstream group or on the wrong side of politics; so the Tories are walking a tightrope, having to pick parties with right-wing populist appeal who aren't obviously unpalatable. Which, in the age of the internet, may be harder to get away with.
The EU election results are in. It is, of course, a disastrous result for New Labour, with them winning only 11 seats, finishing third behind a single-issue minor party.
Britain also lurched sharply to the right. Everyone is, of course, talking about the BNP, a party which strenuously denies being fascist or racist with one breath and then talks about kicking dark-skinned people out of Britain with the next. They got two MEPs up. Though as attention-grabbing as neo-Nazis and those of that ilk are, the real news is elsewhere; the UKIP (a right-wing populist party currently focussed on pulling Britain out of the EU, though whose MEPs have in the past railed against womens' rights; they're like the BNP minus the overt racism and fascism) came second, winning 13 seats. First, of course, were the Tories, who, whilst paying lip service to centrism in Britain, have allied themselves with the right-wing fringe in the EU, having left the centre-right European People's Party and joined a new fringe-right bloc. The 24 Tory MEPs just elected will ally themselves with right-wing hardliners such as Poland's rabidly illiberal Law and Justice Party and Latvia's Fatherland and Freedom Party. The Greens, meanwhile, only scored two seats and a whisker more votes than the BNP, and the traditional leftist parties seem to have vanished into thin air.
If the UKIP are going to be the New Tory Britain's opposition party, they'll have to come up with some policies other than pulling Britain out of the EU and kicking all the Polish plumbers out. Such as, perhaps, bringing back the death penalty, national service or public flogging.
After yesterday's European elections, the UK Independence Party (an angry right-wing populist party, somewhere between the Daily Mail and the BNP, only without the overt racism of the latter) complained angrily that they were cheated of victory because their party's box was hidden behind a fold on the ballot paper, and called for the election minister's resignation:
In a letter to Mr Wills, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: "We are outraged that today's European election have not been contested on a free and fair basis.
"We have been swamped with upset voters who failed to find us on the ballot paper. In many cases they have voted for other parties such as NO2EU and even the BNP."Having voted, I saw the ballot paper in question. It was the standard one-sided ballot paper, considerably longer than it is wide, as to accommodate the dozen or so party lists in reasonably legible type. It had been folded, though (with the one I got, at least) it was fairly obvious that there was more paper behind the fold. To suggest that a significant number of probable UKIP voters didn't notice this and were thus disenfranchised (or, even worse, tricked into voting for those nasty fascists whom we honestly have nothing in common with) doesn't say much about the UKIP's opinion of its own target audience's intelligence.
Wikileaks has posted what appears to be the British National Party's "Language & Concepts Discipline Manual, a set of guidelines for party activists to ensure that they don't appear, you know, racist or anything. A few choice excerpts:
Rule #1: The BNP is not a ‘racist’ or ‘racial’ or ‘racialist’ or ‘race-conscious’ or ‘white’ or ‘whitepeople’s’ party. It should never be referred to as such by BNP activists, and anyone else who does so must be politely but firmly corrected. The precisely correct description of what we are, in the standard terminology of international comparative politics, is an ‘ethno-nationalist’ party. That is, we espouse, like many political parties all over the world, the interests of the particular ethnic groups to which we belong. There is nothing fascistic or unusual about this, and we don’t have to apologise for it. If we must describe our attitude towards race, it is ‘racial realism,’ as no-one can admit being against realism.
Rule #15. BNP activists and writers should never refer to ‘black Britons’ or ‘Asian Britons’ etc, for the simple reason that such persons do not exist. These people are ‘black residents’ of the UK etc, and are no more British than an Englishman living in Hong Kong is Chinese. Collectively, foreign residents of other races should be referred to as ‘racial foreigners’, a non-pejorative term that makes clear the distinction needing to be drawn. The key in such matters is above all to maintain necessary distinctions while avoiding provocation and insult.
Rule #17. Britain does not have ‘immigrants,’ a term proper for use in settler societies like Canada, Argentina, and the USA. It has ‘guest workers,’ ‘foreign workers,’ or ‘descendants of foreign workers.’ They are, depending on who they are, ‘racial foreigners,’ ‘religious foreigners’ or ‘persons of foreign religion,’ or ‘ethnic foreigners.’ The last term is meant to apply to persons racially similar to Britons, but ethnically dissimilar, like Dutchmen.Meanwhile, Charlie Brooker tears into the BNP's ugly campaign materials:
The other day, the BNP had a political broadcast on the box. I wasn't in my beloved homeland at the time, but I heard about it, via internet chuckles of derision. Fellow geeky types tweeting about the poor production values. I looked it up on YouTube. Sure enough, it was badly made. No surprise there. Extremist material of any kind always looks gaudy and cheap, like a bad pizza menu. Not because they can't afford decent computers - these days you can knock up a professional CD cover on a pay-as-you-go mobile - but because anyone who's good at graphic design is likely to be a thoughtful, inquisitive sort by nature. And thoughtful, inquisitive sorts tend to think fascism is a bit shit, to be honest. If the BNP really were the greatest British party, they'd have the greatest British designer working for them - Jonathan Ive, perhaps, the man who designed the iPod. But they don't. They've got someone who tries to stab your eyes out with primary colours.
It's getting harder to identify the neo-Nazis; no longer content to shave their heads and wear white bootlaces (much to the relief of skinheads into the scene for the music), they now have their own street-casual sportswear brand, Thor Steinar, which looks like any other streetwear, only with a few more Nordic symbols and (allegedly) the odd hint at Nazi sympathies:
Many of the symbols are straightforward. On one Thor Steinar T-shirt, the word kontaktfreudig is splashed across red splotches that look like spatters of blood. The word could be translated as "outgoing," or more literally, "happy to make contact." The display on Rosa-Luxemburg Street includes clothing with common symbols like an eagle for German pride, or "18" and "88" for "Adolf Hitler" and "Heil Hitler" -- numbers freighted with meaning because of the position of the initials in the alphabet.The Thor Steinar brand (some of whose earlier designs have been banned for looking too runic and warlike) denies deliberately appealing to neo-Nazis, though some regard these denials with scepticism. Still, it's not clear how long they can cash in on the crypto-Nazi demographic, now that the company has been bought by a Dubai-based Arab investor. On the other hand, the Nazis of today aren't necessarily all that discerning:
"They are getting harder to spot," she said, taking a picture out of a folder showing far-right and far-left activists facing off at a march. Both groups wore Che Guevara T-shirts and checked scarves -- long a leftist symbol of solidarity with Palestinians. But the far right co-opted both symbols, she explained, just as neo-Nazis have taken to wearing all black, which used to be an anarchist fashion statement.
Guevara may be the strangest appropriation of all. Neo-Nazis wear his image but don't hesitate to beat up people who look different -- including Latin Americans.Perhaps next they'll adopt Robert Mugabe as a political icon; after all, he's thuggish enough, and is one of the few political leaders in recent times to have proudly equated himself to Hitler. The whole "white-supremacy" angle could prove to be a stumbling block though.
As bushfires swept across south-eastern Australia, wiping out towns and killing hundreds, people asked why. Some pointed to climate change, the lack of backburning in recent years or flawed town planning. One man, however, has a different theory. According to Pastor Danny Nalliah, former Family First political candidate and friend of the former Howard government, the bushfires were God's wrath for Victoria having recently decriminalised abortion:
The evangelical church's leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah, claimed he had a dream about raging fires on October 21 last year and that he woke with "a flash from the Spirit of God: that His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb".
He quoted a headline describing the fires as "The Darkest hour for Victoria". "A few months ago the news media should have reported 'the darkest hour for the unborn', but unfortunately the 'Decriminalisation of Abortion bill' went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria 'the baby killing state of Australia,' " Mr Nalliah said.Had Victoria not passed the bill, the bushfires would presumably have been God's wrath for something else, such as permitting divorce, suffering homosexuals to live or wearing clothes of mixed fibres.
Of course, Pastor Nalliah doesn't speak for all Christians or theists; far from it. The Age's religious editor, Barney Zwartz, points out that, actually, that's not what God is about, citing Bible verse to back up his point. Needless to say, he cites different Bible verses to the ones the Pastor does. That's the marvellous thing about scripture; it's so ambiguous that one find things in it to back up wildly divergent positions.
God, meanwhile, could not be reached for comment.
The Australian government's plans for a national internet censorship system seem to be running into trouble. Firstly child-protection groups condemned the plans, then ISPs refused to participate in live trials, and now, the proposal has been blasted by an ultra-conservative pro-censorship senator for being too draconian:
In a post on his blog, South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi expressed concern that the filters would inadvertently block legitimate content and be expanded to cover other controversial material opposed by the Government of the day, such as regular pornography.
"Already we have a filter on the internet for all parliament house computers. It blocks some political sites, alternative lifestyle sites and other sites that, while not to my personal taste, are hardly grounds for censorship," he wrote.
"Imagine if such censorship was extended to every computer in the country through mandatory ISP filtering. Who would be the ultimate arbiter of what is permissible content?"
Bernardi, who tried to censor Gordon Ramsay by calling for a Senate inquiry into swearing on television in March, is known for his conservative views. The pro-life Senator has questioned whether global warming is caused by human activities, has opposed therapeutic cloning of human embryos and protested against proposed laws prescribing equal treatment of same-sex relationships.With any luck, the whole scheme will disintegrate sooner rather than later.
In Michigan, a swing state in the US elections, the Republican Party is moving to disenfranchise holders of foreclosed mortgages.
(via Boing Boing)
The latest salvo from the culture war: Canada's conservative government has scrapped a programme to help Canadian musicians and artists abroad because it was going to "fringe art groups that were unrepresentative or offensive", with one example being the electronica outfit Holy Fuck.
The Exclusive Brethren sect, an ultra-conservative Christian separatist group, praised as pillars of the community by the previous right-wing Australian government (with which they had some kinds of dealings), and which, incidentally, also gave the world Aleister Crowley, is facing allegations of high-level criminal activity, including kidnapping, money laundering, fraud and bribery, in Australia, New Zealand and India.
Three sisters, from India, who say they are on the run from the sect, allege they can link it to numerous crimes.
"We've got 3000 pages of evidence … and now we're going to expose this whole thing," one of the sisters told reporters in Canberra.Of course, at this stage, these are merely allegations, and may well be without substance, though it will be interesting to see what emerges in the Australian High Court.
The head of the San Diego branch of the Republican Party has been revealed to be none other than the founder of videogame cracking ring Fairlight, who were responsible for a large proportion of the pirated Commodore 64 games in circulation. Tony Krvaric, was born in Sweden of Croatian parents but emigrated to the US in 1992 to escape the stifling constraints of social democracy, co-founded Fairlight in 1987, going by the handle "Strider". Even back then, Krvaric was known for his right-wing politics, and included the motto "Kill a commie for Mommy" in bragging screens on cracked titles he released.
Boris Johnson, Tory joke candidate, has just won the London mayoral election by some 140,000 votes. As of now, Londoners have forfeited the right to make smug remarks about Americans having voted for Bush.
Johnson didn't have any positive policies (other than the bizarre magic-Routemaster promise, which can be translated as either "let's divert a few million pounds from boring things like housing and education into designing a cool-looking retro bus" or "let's play a game: you pretend you're an idiot and I'll entertain you"), but got elected on (a) his raffish, loveable-buffoon image, and (b) dog-whistles to reactionary resentment (too hard/expensive to drive into London, too many unruly coloured youths/scary Muslims, "It's political correctness gone mad!"). In fact, he had expert coaching in the art of dog-whistle politics, having been managed by Lynton Crosby, who helped keep a right-wing government in power in Australia for 11 years, tapping into much the same reactionary sentiments and unspoken but popularly accepted bigotries.
It's overwhelmingly likely that the next four or so years won't be an era of innovative initiatives in London. Don't expect things like the Paris bicycle hire scheme, bold new green initiatives, pioneering public transport policy (something Ken Livingstone was actually really good at) or forward-looking visions for a metropolis at the centre of global culture. We can almost certainly expect the congestion charge to be abolished or "rationalised" to the point where nobody has to actually pay it (except perhaps for those pesky cyclists who get in everyone's way), and the axe to fall on Ken Livingstone's public-transport expansion programmes (you can forget about the city tram or the East London Overground reaching Clapham Junction), and quite possibly on Transport For London itself, abolishing this Inefficient Socialist Bureaucracy and flogging off individual tube lines to bus companies. The daily commute won't get any less slow or cramped, though at least those who own cars will have the option to drive. Also, if Crosby's previous client is anything to go by, expect the ugly politics of division and the "culture war" to come out, to see Johnson publicly beating up on cosmopolitan elites and "un-British" foreigners, to mass applause from the Daily Mail readers who voted for him. Certainly, Ken's celebrations of multiculturalism will be replaced by fields of Union Jacks, with Land Of Hope And Glory blaring through the tannoy. But the good side is that it'll be really easy to find parking at the Olympics.
The gist of this is that it now looks like, over the next few years, London will become an even less attractive place to live, even more paranoid and mean and self-absorbed, a backward-looking place whose glories are all in the past, with Boris Johnson's rhetorical Routemasters. And in four years' time, Londoners will look over their dirty, traffic-choked city and Ken Livingstone's reign will look like a golden age in comparison.
A gay Iranian teenager who fled to Britain after his boyfriend was hanged for sodomy is facing deportation to Iran, and almost certain death. Britain's Home Office has already denied Mehdi Kazemi, 19, asylum, and now the Netherlands is extraditing him to Britain:
"There is no doubt that Mehdi will be arrested and probably executed if he is sent back there," said his 51-year-old uncle, a salesman from Hampshire. "The police have issued a warrant for his arrest. He will be in terrible danger if he goes back."
Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."
A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed Mr Kazemi had exhausted all his domestic avenues of appeal and could expect to be detained pending his deportation. But she added: "Any further representations will be considered on their merits taking into account all the circumstances."Meanwhile, in Lancashire, a court has heard that a gang of teenagers beat a 20-year-old woman to death because she was dressed as a Goth. The woman's boyfriend was severely bashed and left with brain damage. It is not clear what the assailants' dispute with the victims' subcultural orientation was, or indeed what their own views were, though it'd probably be a safe bet that they were of the hoody-wearing persuasion.
And the ultra-conservative former prime minister of Poland, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, has spoken out against allowing internet voting because the internet is for pornography:
"I am not an enthusiast of a young person sitting in front of a computer, watching video clips and pornography while sipping a bottle of beer and voting when he feels like it," he was quoted as saying on his party's revamped Web site.
He added that Internet users are "the easiest group to manipulate, to suggest who to vote for."He's right, if one defines being manipulated as being persuaded to put aside cherished prejudices and entertain new, potentially controversial, ideas.
The Age has obtained letters between the ultraconservative Exclusive Brethren sect and former Prime Minister John Howard, revealing more about the closeness of the Brethren's relationship to the reins of power, and the Howard government's collusion with them:
The letters show Mr Howard met two Brethren leaders in his Sydney office on the day New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark referred sect members to police because they hired private detectives to tail her and her husband, and spread rumours that her husband was gay.
"The attention of the public needs to be diverted from matters such as the Iraq war, the supposed ill-treatment of Iraq prisoners and other contentious issues," they wrote. They also suggested a massive project to transport water via aqueducts using funding from the sale of Telstra and the issue of bonds.
The Brethren runs a lucrative network of pump supply companies but spokesman Tony McCorkell said yesterday this was irrelevant to the water proposal. Brethren members were "concerned about good environmental policy", he said.
Right-wing contrarian Jeremy Clarkson (he's sort of The Times' version of Charlie Brooker, or perhaps a very English P.J. O'Rourke) weighs into the question of sustainable food production:
Already the Atlantic has fewer cod in it than Elton John’s bath, so we are having to import fish fingers from China. And you may think this is fine. Your underpants come from the Far East, and your mobile phone, so why should we not import our watercress and beef from those industrious little yellow fellows on the banks of the Yangtze? I’ll tell you why. Because China’s population is growing, too, and soon they won’t be able to send us their fish fingers because they will have been scoffed before they get to the docks.
Obviously, one solution is to burn the entire Amazon rainforest and turn this rich and fertile place into the world’s pantry. But unfortunately this is not possible because Sting will turn up on a chat show with some pygmy who’s sewn a saucer into his bottom lip, arguing that the world’s “indigenous tribes” are suffering because of the West’s greed.
I fear, too, that if we all became vegetablists, the world would smell of halitosis and we’d all start to vote Liberal Democrat. Furthermore, all the veg-heads I know are sickly and grey and unable to climb a flight of stairs without fainting.Clarkson's modest proposal is simple: you know all those exotic species you see on BBC nature shows? Well, we could eat those. And no need to worry about endangered species, as the free market will take care of that issue:
I believe that if enough people demanded blue whale for supper, garnished with the ears of a panda and the left wing of a juicy great bustard, it wouldn’t take very long for big business to move in.
When there’s a quid to be made, pandas will be having babies with the regularity of hens and you won’t be able to go to the shops for all the leopards you’ll meet on the way.
Dispatches from the Australian Culture War: It turns out that Australia's Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews is a board member of a radical pro-life group, Life Decisions International, involved in boycotts of baby-murdering companies like Disney, eBay and GlaxoSmithKline. Is anybody surprised?
GlaxoSmithKline manufactures and distributes contraceptive pills and is involved with producing the so-called abortion drug RU-486.
The Howard cabinet has grappled with the contentious issue of allowing the prescription of RU-486 in Australia. As a member of cabinet Mr Andrews has also been involved in decisions relating to the multimillion-dollar funding of national and international reproductive health programs.
LDI is vehemently opposed to any organisation that provides abortion or sexual reproduction advice.
If the RRR morning news is to be believed, the Australian citizenship examination will contain a question that reads something like:
Australian values are based on:The government's correct answer is, of course, b), and all others are wrong; get enough wrong and you are ineligible for citizenship.
a) the Koran
Australia has been a secular culture; more so than, say, America; relatively few Australians attend churches, and religious dogma is more often mocked than revered. Religious debates of the sort seen elsewhere have little traction; Creationism isn't taken seriously, except perhaps in parts of Queensland, and attempts by rightwingers to make abortion an issue recently fell flat. But now, with the stroke of a pen, John Howard remakes Australia in his image, and secularism is now officially as un-Australian as Islamism.
Rock aristocrat Bryan Ferry, unapologetic Tory and fox-hunting advocate, has expressed his admiration for the Nazis' aesthetic achievements:
In an interview withWelt am Sonntag, the 61-year-old also acknowledged that he calls his studio in west London his "Führerbunker". "My God, the Nazis knew how to put themselves in the limelight and present themselves," he said. "Leni Riefenstahl's movies and Albert Speer's buildings and the mass parades and the flags - just amazing. Really beautiful."Of course, when cornered about this, Ferry denied having Nazi sympathies, making all the right noises about abhorring Nazism itself and repudiating the Nazis' genocidal actions and ideologies. No, to him, it was purely about the spiffy uniforms and spectacular parades:
The singer, who is also a model for Marks and Spencer, issued a statement yesterday in which he said he was "deeply upset" by the negative publicity his remarks had caused. It added: "I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused by my comments on Nazi iconography, which were solely made from an art history perspective.Which would be alright, except for a few things; as No Rock'n'Roll Fun argues, you can't separate the aesthetics of Nazism from the "bad bits", without seeming monstrously callous at best and at worst to be protesting too much. And then there's his statement that he refers to his studio as the "Führerbunker" thing, which seems to give lie to his protests of having no Nazi sympathies whatsoever.
Though just looking at the aesthetics whose praises he sang so loudly: Albert Speer's cyclopean monumentalism, the Wagnerian bombast, the masses marching and chanting in unison, all subtlety subsumed beneath the single-minded show of raw, primal force. There isn't much good that can be said about these things; at best, they're crass and kitschy, and at worst, the mindset behind them is inseparable from that which would countenance projects such as the Third Reich. One does wonder about the mindset of someone with such aesthetic sensibilities.
And here is Momus' take on the whole matter, in which he reiterates his view that the aesthetics of rock are inherently fascist:
The fact that I sense some kind of fascism in rock music (especially live rock music) is absolutely central to my lifelong avoidance of the form. And rock stars don't seem to disagree with me, just disagree that it's bad, or matters. In 1975 a coked- and occulted-up David Bowie called Hitler "the first rock star -- he staged a whole country". Keith Moon liked to dress up as a Nazi, and Bobby Gillespie is fond of throwing Hitler salutes, probably more in tribute to Iggy than Adolf. What Ferry is saying now is a tame, drawing room version of the same thing.
After a recount in the Victorian state election, the DLP has lost one of its two seats to Labor, who, in turn, have lost one of theirs to the Greens. So now the upper house looks like:
- ALP: 19
- Liberal Party: 15
- Greens: 3
- National Party: 2
- DLP: 1
Meanwhile, political scientists are blaming the election of this bunch of fusty relics (who are rather unlikely to speak for the fabled Silent Majority Of Suburban Battlers) on the above-the-line preferential voting system used to elect candidates. In short, this system works by allowing voters a choice: vote below the line, enumerating your candidates of choice in order from most to least preferred (and there's usually a good 40 or 50 there), or tick the box of one party above the line and automatically vote according to whatever preferences the party has chosen in its various deals. The political enthusiasts who keep up to date with the details of the preference deals are, for the most part, the same tiny minority of voters who can be bothered to vote below the line; meanwhile, the vast majority of voters tick one box and hope for a result with the flavour of their particular party.
IMHO, there is a solution: make above-the-line voting preferential, allowing voters to rank their parties of choice in order, removing control over the exact distribution of the preferences of above-the-line voters from party dealmakers.
Hacker turned theologian Simon Cozens puts forward an argument that the belief system known as "Christianity" in America is not Christianity. By which he means not that is a weird form of Christianity, or even that it is heretical or flawed, but, quite literally, that it is a completely different, unrelated, belief system that happens to have the same name:
The situation only makes sense if you consider a separate entity called "American Christianity" which is an entirely separate religion to Christianity. Not a branch of Christianity, not a form of Christianity, but something with absolutely no connection to Christianity at all. It's a separate religion. And what is the goal of this religion?
look at it phenomenologically, look at it sociologically, and what do you see? Basically a syncretic folk religion, based primarily on American nationalism, an expression of the "pervasive religious dimension of American political life". (Bellah; see also "Civil Religion in America") Its purposes are basically civil and political. Its morality is taken from a highly selective and individualistic reading of the Old Testament, and it mixes in bits of consumerism, Zionism, Republican political values, and corporatism for good measure. Add to this an almost romantic sentimentality concerning the person of Jesus, much like the contribution of Catholicism to Vodou religions, and suddenly it all makes sense.
The Australian government is planning to strip environmental groups and trade unions of their tax-deductible status, for campaigning against the government during the last federal election. Interestingly enough, there is no mention of revoking charitable tax-deductible status from groups that involve themselves in politics on the government's side, such as hardline evangelical Christian organisations.
Stephen Bayley, an prominent design critic, has issued a scathing indictment of conditions in London, speaking to a Conservative Party policy group:
"Most of them are getting worse. London is filthy, lawless and expensive. These are not great conditions for civility to flourish."
"Putting 10 million aggressive hominids into close proximity and inviting them to engage in serial acts of competitive individualism ... for jobs, schools or parking spaces, could not be considered a reasonable idea," Bayley said.
"You put rats in claustrophobic circumstances and they become homosexual, murderous and cannibalistic in no time at all.I wonder whether he threw in the word "homosexual" to appeal to the reactionary elements in his audience.
Though has London ever been anything other than filthy, lawless and expensive?
American Christianity may have fallen behind fundamentalist Islam in the fanaticism stakes, but it's now making an effort to catch up. Witness the Jesus Camps, America's own madrassas, which serve to indoctrinate 9-10-year-olds in a severe form of fundamentalist Christianity, linked to all manner of conservative ideologies, from veneration of George W. Bush to denial of global warming:
Right wing political agendas and slogans are mixed with born again rituals that end with most of the kids in tears. Tears of release and joy, they would claim -- the children are not physically abused. The kids are around 9 or 10 years old, recruited from various churches, and are pliant willing receptacles. They are instructed that evolution is being forced upon us by evil Godless secular humanists, that abortion must be stopped at all costs, that we must form an "army" to defeat the Godless influences, that we must band together to insure that the right judges and politicians get into the courts and office and that global warming is a lie. (This last one is a puzzle -- how did accepting the evidence for climate change and global warming become anti-Jesus? Did someone simply conflate all corporate agendas with Jesus and God and these folks accept that? Would Jesus drive an SUV? Is every conclusion responsible scientists make now suspect?)
at one point Pastor Fischer instructs the little ones that they should be willing to die for Christ, and the little ones obediently agree. She may even use the word martyr, which has a shocking echo in the Middle East. I can see future suicide bombers for Jesus -- the next step will be learning to fly planes into buildings. Of course, the grownups would say, "Oh no, we're not like them" -- but they admit that the principal difference is simply that "We're right."
In another scene a cardboard cutout of George W. Bush, with his trademark smirking smile, is brought out and the children are urged to identify -- many of the little ones come forward and reverently touch his cardboard hands.
(via Boing Boing)
The ultra-conservative president of Poland (one half of a set of identical twins running the country (his brother is Prime Minister) and a man so right-wing he makes Tony Abbott look like Bob Brown) has called for the restoration of the death penalty. If anything comes of this, it could lead to an interesting situation, as capital punishment is expressly prohibited in the European Union. Were Poland to reintroduce it, it would leave Brussels with a dilemma: hold to principles and expel one of their populous members, or allow Poland to opt out of the death-penalty ban. If the EU blinks and the latter happens, how long until the Daily Mail and Sun put the reintroduction of capital punishment on the agenda in the UK.
The anti-immigrant right in France has adopted a new tactic: handing out pork soup to the poor and hungry, pointedly excluding Muslims and Jews from their charity.
With steaming bowls of the fragrant broth soon passing through the crowd, Odile Bonnivard, a short-haired secretary turned far-right firebrand, climbed atop a dark sedan with a megaphone in hand and led the crowd in a raucous chant: "We are all pig eaters! We are all pig eaters!"
The movement began in the winter of 2003 when Ms. Bonnivard, a member of a small far-right nationalist movement called the Identity Bloc, began serving hot soup to the homeless. At first, she said, the group used pork simply because it was an inexpensive traditional ingredient for hearty French soup. But after the political significance of serving pork dawned on them and others, it quickly became the focus of their work.
John Birmingham puts forward the case that the political right pretty much has a monopoly on humour, with the left having become too puritanical and politically correct to laugh, with the voices that dare to be outrageous being predominantly right-wing, from shock-jocks and reactionary bloggers to institutions like VICE Magazine (infamously offending the uptight by pejoratively calling things "gay") and the creators of South Park and Team America (who skewered Hollywood liberals and left-wing sanctimony alike).
Of course, this relies on a rather broad definition of "right-wing", as anything that goes against a doctrinaire liberal/progressive view of propriety and "political correctness". By this token, one would classify Coco Rosie as a right-wing band, placing them in the same ideological milieu as Pat Robertson and Little Green Footballs, because one of their number attended "Kill Whitey" parties. And while VICE's Gavin McInnes claimed in American Conservative to represent a hip new conservatism (a view he later retracted, claiming he was joking/being ironic), the cocaine-snorting, nihilistic libertinism epitomised in the magazine, as much as it may offend "liberals" (or straw-man caricatures thereof), hardly fits well with the canon of conservatism and its emphasis on values, tradition and authority. However, it does fit in with the recently noted shift towards Hobbesian nihilism and radical individualism.
On a tangent: some American conservatives are concerned about FOXNews' alarming slide to the radical left; the channel, once the shining beacon of all things Right-thinking, has been compromising its Fair And Balanced™ reputation by running programmes on topics such as global warming. Pundits blame the influx of liberally-inclined ex-CNN reporters, the staffers having spent too long in Godless New York, away from the Biblical certainties of the Red States, or Murdoch not really being "One Of Us", but rather a cynical opportunist.
And finally, a study on the neurology of political belief has showed that True Believers of both stripes are adept at ignoring facts which don't jive with their beliefs, and experience a rush in the reward centres of the brain when they do:
"We did not see any increased activation of the parts of the brain normally engaged during reasoning," said Drew Westen, director of clinical psychology at Emory University. "What we saw instead was a network of emotion circuits lighting up, including circuits hypothesized to be involved in regulating emotion, and circuits known to be involved in resolving conflicts."
The test subjects on both sides of the political aisle reached totally biased conclusions by ignoring information that could not rationally be discounted, Westen and his colleagues say. Then, with their minds made up, brain activity ceased in the areas that deal with negative emotions such as disgust. But activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix, Westen explained.
American Holy Man and political powerbroker Pat Robertson, who previously called for the assassination of Venezuelan leftist president Hugo Chavez, is at it again, this time claiming that God smote Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon for giving up the Gaza Strip:
"He was dividing God's land, and I would say, 'Woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the [European Union], the United Nations or the United States of America,'" Robertson told viewers of his long-running television show, "The 700 Club." "God says, 'This land belongs to me, and you'd better leave it alone,'" he said.Robertson's statements (though softened by his admission that Sharon was "a very likable person") have drawwn criticism from everyone from the Israeli government (whose spokesman compared him to Iranian hothead Mahmoud Ahmadine-Jihad) to liberal and secularist groups (no great surprise there), though probably resonated with too many big-haired yahoos for anyone to dismiss him as a harmless crank.
Italian Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi has made statements defending a footballer, facing criticism for using the Fascist salute as "a bit of a show-off". That, in itself, is not particularly shocking for a conservative politician; however, he followed it up with a defense of the legitimacy of Fascism:
"Fascism in Italy was never a criminal doctrine. There were the racial laws, horrible, but because one wanted to win the war with Hitler," Mr Berlusconi told foreign journalists.Of course, given that Berlusconi has near-total control of Italy's television (owning the largest private TV network and controlling state-run TV, which, presumably, is not funded by a BBC-style license fee), he stands a chance of getting away with it and winning the next election (which he is confidently boasting that he will).
Interracial violence erupts on a Sydney beach, as a standoff between Lebanese "gangstas" and Anglo-Australian surfers escalates, with the Anglos joined by Waltzing Matilda-singing neo-Nazis, who in turn end up beating up anybody non-Anglo-looking. Apparently the trouble had been brewing for a long time, and escalated when some Lebanese gang members went on a rampage at Cronulla, the surfer gang called for "patriots" to reinforce them, by when the bampots took charge. It turns out that far-right racial-nationalist groups modelled on the British National Party took an active role in organising the riots, and while the Prime Minister has condemned the violence, one of his media allies, right-wing talk radio host Alan Jones boasts of having led the charge, by reading out text messages calling "Aussies" to "support the Leb and wog bashing day". And, of course, Australia's answer to Little Green Footballs is providing another rallying point for the "Aussie" nationalists.
And yes, that did say text messages. Apparently both sides called in the cavalry through a tree of text messages. Sydney's ultra-violent Lebanese gangs (who, it must be said, are not representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese community) are said to mobilise quickly through mobile phones (actually, weren't some of the notorious Sydney gang rapes from a few years ago, also said to be committed by the gang members, organised spontaneously by mobile phone?).
And it would be folly to airbrush away the reality that what started the Cronulla tensions was yet another provocation by the aggressive, repugnant Lebanese gangsta culture - itself an alien subculture within the Lebanese community - which has given Sydney dozens of shootings and murders, a spate of gang rapes, hundreds of sexual assaults, and thousands of deliberate racist provocations at Darling Harbour, the eastern and southern beaches and some of the big clubs in western Sydney, along with Canterbury Bulldogs rugby league matches.
At its worst, this culture had overtones of civil war, as the Kanaan gang sprayed the Lakemba police station with gunfire. One of those who took part in this attack was Saleh Jamal, now in jail in Lebanon on weapons charges. He has turned to Islamic fundamentalism and wanted to explode a terrorist bomb in Sydney before he fled the country.Now, the surfers and right-wing bovver boys seem to have also adopted this tactic, and used it as an excuse to beat up anyone they see as "un-Australian". So now we are seeing an age of flash mob rule. We live in interesting times.
There are more reports of the violence here:
I saw a group of three well-dressed 40-ish women drinking Breezers standing atop a retaining wall chanting at the police. I saw a group of four teenage girls (typical tanned 'Northies' Shire-girls -- long hair, short skirts and massive sunglasses) being interviewed by ABC radio with 'Multiculturalism Doesn't Work' stickers on their backs. I saw a fifty-year-old man wearing an 'Osama Don't Surf' t-shirt. I've never seen that many people in Cronulla before.
It wasn't too long before a rumour started spreading that a train full of Lebs was on its way to Cronulla (it was like an insane game of Chinese Whispers, there were stories going through the crowd that Tom Ugly's and Captain Cook Bridge had been closed, that the Bra Boys had arrived and that the kiosk at North Cronulla was under siege because it was owned by Wogs), so everyone was off to the station, via Cronulla Mall.
But many locals were involved, and for the most part loving every minute of it. There were plenty of units and apartments decked out in Aussie flags with parties overflowing into the streets, proud to be a part of what was just a disgusting day. How so many people could be getting pleasure from this was just impossible to comprehend. It was part machismo bullsh*t and part mob-mentality but it was mainly just ugly racism. It no longer had anything at all to do with two lifeguards getting beaten up last weekend, it was all just hatred towards a group of people who weren't even there.A family-friendly festival of nationalism and hatred. Perhaps next time they can book Prussian Blue to play on a stage?
In the Red States of the US, there is now a conservative children's book, whose villains are those evil godless socialists in the Democratic Party:
Written by Katharine DeBrecht, a mother of three, it tells the story of two young brothers who try to make money from a lemonade stall but are thwarted at every turn by left-wing politicians who threaten to put them out of business.
Several of the characters in the book are instantly recognisable, including "Congresswoman Clunkton" who tells the boys to reduce the amount of sugar in their lemonade and forces them to add broccoli to every glass.
Later the boys are ordered to take down a picture of Jesus by the civil liberties lawyer Mr Fussman and eventually lose the stand when it is taken over by the government of "Liberaland", at which point it goes broke.
Their story turns out to be a dream, however, and the boys are able to pursue their free-market ambitions when they wake up.This book was apparently second only to Harry Potter on the Amazon children's book chart.
An excellent rant from Patrick Farley (of E-Sheep web-comics fame) about the present state of affairs:
I'm sick of being told that catastrophe is victory.
I'm sick of being told that mythology is science, and vice-versa.
I'm sick of millionaire drug-addicts instructing me on how to live a virtuous life.
I'm sick of being told that Petroleum is the Lifeblood of Civilization.
I'm sick of being told in late 2005 that "It's all Clinton's fault."
I'm sick of Working Class Heroes who can be depended on to swallow any shit, so long as it's wrapped in a flag and served on a Bible.
I'm sick of "Christian" ministers who show up at funerals carrying signs which read "YOUR FAG SON BURNS IN HELL!"
I'm sick of being told that questioning authority makes me a traitor.
I'm sick of being told I must fear God.
I'm sick of being told that the worship of force is the highest of human virtues.Someone should put this to music.
Why hasn't Osama bin Laden attempted any terrorist attacks on US soil since 2001? Some say that it's because the US has threatened to nuke Mecca, the Islamic holy city, if such an attack ever happens again; this, in theory, makes an attack against the US unthinkable:
"Israel recognizes that the Aswan Dam is Egypt's Damoclean Sword," writes Wheeler. "There is no possibility whatever of Egypt's winning a war with Israel, for if Aswan is blown, all of inhabited Egypt is under 20 feet of water. Once the Israelis made this clear to the Egyptians, the possibility of any future Egyptian attack on Israel like that of 1948, 1967, and 1972 is gone."
The argument for this proposition includes the reasoning that the true reason for invading Afghanistan and Iraq was to demonstrate that the US is not afraid to use force, even, perhaps, when the reasoning behind doing so is dubious; which appears to be an echo of Richard Nixon's madman theory of geopolitics; that if you act like you're dangerously insane, others will fear and respect you and give you wide berth; assuming that they're not even more irrational, that is.
Wheeler says bin Laden is "playing poker with a Texas cowboy holding the nuclear aces," so there's nothing al-Qaida could do that could come remotely close to risking obliterating Mecca.
There are a few problems with this reasoning: on the other hand, if the US was to nuke Mecca, all hell would break loose; there is no way that such an attack would not start a catastrophic war between the West and the Islamic world. There'd be suicide bombers martyring themselves in every Western city, not to mention the militaries of every country from Indonesia to Algeria uniting against the Great Satan and its minions. This would be the apocalyptic World War 3 that didn't happen against the USSR. As such, whether the Whitehouse and Pentagon would be willing to bring on the apocalypse if a few hundred of its citizens were killed with bombs is somewhat more dubious a proposition. Secondly, the strategy of making such a threat presupposes that al-Qaeda are rational agents and not, say, religious nutters spoiling for an apocalyptic global war or something. It could well be that bin Laden would see such a claim not as a threat but as a promise of greater glory than he could otherwise attain.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has denied a Filipino man residency because his wife had had a sex change 24 years earlier, and thus was legally a man, making their marriage unlawful. The funny thing, though, is that the wife had been legally living as a woman in the United States for the past 24 years, and had been recognised as such on her US citizenship certificate.
Meanwhile, the CBS and NBC are refusing to air a church's television advertisement as it's "too controversial". The controversy has to do with the advertisement implying acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
And in Alabama, a lawmaker has proposed a bill to ban novels with gay protagonists from public libraries, to protect children from the "homosexual agenda". The bill will also prohibit books which suggest that homosexuality, or any lifestyle prohibited by Alabama's sodomy laws, is natural.
Meanwhile, a recent report claims that abstinence-only sex-education programmes, as promoted by the Bush Whitehouse, are riddled with inaccuracies, including claims that touching a person's genitals can lead to pregnancy, AIDS can be transmitted in sweat or tears, half of gay male teenagers in the US are HIV-positive, condoms don't work, and a 43-day-old fetus is a "thinking person".
The voice of Australia's much-vaunted silent majority, Andrew Bolt, now has a blog. (via Ben Butler)
Hold on - let me get this straight. Suddenly we're meant to feel sorry and apologetic for young women who use their sexuality as a tool and as a result become burdened with unwanted children? Suddenly we're meant to embrace potential terrorists and rapists simply because they're from a "minority group"? Never mind that our "homies" (street slang for homosexual pickpockets) are thieving money from the middle class average Australians to give to the depraved, like a posse of horrendous, drug-addled urban Robin Hoods - after all, they're "strugglers"!
As we enter a glorious new era of Australian politics, remember that the public's faith in John Howard and the conservative Coalition proves beyond doubt that the people of this country have had enough of violence, greed and stupidity. No more following the wannabe Islamic liberals of this nation into the proverbial vegetarian cafe of angst, and being peer-pressured to order soy lattes of hate. By putting our faith in a courageous Government and our beloved American allies, we are standing together and saying "No!" to conflict.
The extreme-right-wing religious-values parties seem to be sprouting like mushrooms in Australia; now John Abbott, founder of extremist neo-fascist "men's rights" group the Blackshirts (who dress in balaclavas and paramilitary uniforms and harrass divorced women as part of a "crusade" to defend marriage and the family) plans to start one. Abbott's exact policy platform is as yet unknown, though he has in the past advocated abolishing divorce and making adultery punishable by death, and keeps talking about "crusades" for "Christian values".
I have just been informed that, in the upcoming Australian federal election, all major parties (Liberals, Nationals and Labor) and the Democrats are giving their preferences to Christian Fundamentalist parties (the Fred Nile group and Family First) ahead of the Greens, which stands the religious right a good chance of winning the balance of power on the strength of people voting above the line. Still, if it annihilates the Green Party before it becomes a threat to the established order, four years of religiots holding the balance of power must be a small price for the major parties to pay.
The table shows the preference orders on the above the line Senate tickets in NSW. It omits the minor parties that have little or no chance of winning. Check it out for yourself at www.aec.gov.au/election2004/candidates/pdf/gvt/2004NSWGVT.pdf
2. Family First
3. Liberals for Forests
4. Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile)
6. 50% Liberals/Nationals, 50% Labor Party
1. Labor Party
2. Liberals for Forests
3. 33% Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile), 66% Greens
5. Family First
3. Labor Party
5. Family First
6. Christian Democrats (Rev Fred Nile)
Is Sun Myung Moon, leader of the Moonies cult, sponsor of religious conservatives across the US and Congressionally-crowned "King of Peace" also providing nuclear submarines to North Korea, giving them the capability to strike California? If so, he's quite the James Bond villain.
Conservative Punk, a new website to fill the neglected intersection between US Republicans and punk-rock fans. In other words, it's a generic right-wing/Libertarian news/spin/liberal-bashing portal with a "punk"-style T-shirt store attached; were it not for the title, you'd have a hard time of identifying the "punk" content. (via tyrsalvia)
Say what you will about the compatibility of conservatism and punk, there are more absurd things, like, for example, Christian Hardcore Punk. Adolescent subcultures are primarily about individuation from one's parents' generation and authority, and a version of "hardcore punk" that is family oriented and whose ideals involve obedience to parental authority seems to miss the point. Whereas being a gleefully obnoxious contrarian right-winger to piss off the right-on inner-city lefty types, it could be argued, is as punk as Sid Vicious' swastika T-shirt (or at least as punk as anything the recording industry has shat out in the past five years).
This just in: a Euro MP from the rabidly anti-EU UK Independence Party has revealed himself to be a reactionary crank. Who would have guessed?
Godfrey Bloom was given a seat on the European Parliament's women's rights committee on Tuesday. But he told the media: "No self-respecting small businessman with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age."
Mr Bloom, an investment fund manager from York, told journalists he wanted to deal with women's issues because: "I just don't think they clean behind the fridge enough". "I am here to represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you get home. I am going to promote men's rights," he added.
If you ever wondered where Liberal Club student newspaper editors go once they graduate (other than the legal profession, that is), the answer could well be the Toorak Metropolitan News, which appears to be distributed for free in the South Yarra area. I saw a copy yesterday; it's one of those free "community papers" that's mostly ads (often for regionally-appropriate products such as hair-replacement therapy). The front page was vintage Tory-student-paper, though, and looked as if it had been put together in PageMaker by a graphically clueless political appointee. (What is it about Tories and clueless graphic design anyway? Back when I was at university, the Labor Club election propaganda looked as if it had been done by someone with decent visual sense, whereas the Liberal Club equivalents were a mishmash of distorted CorelDRAW novelty fonts. I imagine current Liberal Student flyers would probably use a lot of Comic Sans; but I digress.) About five too-narrow, full-justified columns of Times Roman, with the spacing consequently varying widely between lines, and too little whitespace elsewhere to not look cluttered. The content was a sub-Andrew-Bolt op-ed tract about how John Howard's doing such a good job with the economy and the Iraq situation and Latham and his loony-leftist goons should hang their heads in shame for opposing the removal of that rotter Saddam Hussein or something like that, complete with the author denying being, as many say he is, a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal. It came with a rather forced-looking alliterated headline (something about "Loony Liverpool Lout Latham Loses" or somesuch).
More details have emerged about the recent coronation of Sun Myung Moon in the US Senate. It appears that the politicians involved were duped into taking part, believing the bizarre ritual to be a banquet where Moon would give out awards to people from their constituencies, without any mention of him being crowned as the King of Peace with the posthumous blessings of numerous US Presidents, not to mention the reformed spirits of Marx, Lenin, Hitler and Stalin.
Right-wing religious crackpot/media magnate Rev. Sun Myung Moon crowned as king/messiah in US Congress. At the ceremony were Moon's tame representatives of various religions (Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims); a rabbi blew a shofar, and a congressman presented Moon with his golden crown; Moon then allegedly announced that it was time for him to be recognised as the Messiah. Apparently Moon has a thing about all religions coming together under him. (via substitute)
Chances are the coronation was a boon extracted by Moon from conservatives he has helped put in power, and a publicity stunt for his Korean constituency, and probably doesn't make the US a monarchy. Still, it's quite a leap from renting out the Lincoln Bedroom to campaign donors.
Who said it: Little Green Footballs or Late German Fascist? See if you can tell your warbloggers from your Nazis. (via Ben Butler)
(Re Godwin's Law: Is it still mentioning Nazis in vain when it's about someone calling for mass sterilisation of "subhuman vermin", as opposed to advocating their text editor preferences or whatever?)
According to the Political Compass (you know, the are-you-a-good-Libertarian-or-an-evil-fascist/stalinist test), virtually all Presidential candidates are right-wing authoritarians; or at least all the ones remotely likely to get elected. Bush is, of course, the most extreme in both right-wing and authoritarian dimensions, though current Democratic frontrunner John Kerry is shown as being almost near the centre; i.e., only a tiny bit right-wing and authoritarian. Oddly enough, the most libertarian candidate is Al Sharpton (isn't he meant to be some kind of extremist black-nationalist, and/or funded by the Republicans as a spoiler?).
Straight Pride Wear; where you can express your intolerance for alternative lifestyles in eXtreme skate-mook style that wouldn't look amiss at a skate ramp or the mosh pit at Big Day Out/a Limp Bizkit concert. The only thing they're missing is big yellow shorts with "Exit Only" written on the back. And it's not just about shaming the sodomites back into their closet, it's also about being a good all-American patriot, as the stars and stripes will attest. And the links to religious-right groups and the "pro-life-punk" movement pretty much confirm one's suspicions. (via MeFi)
I wonder when the Ku Klux Klan will follow the lead and bring out a line of "White Pride" streetwear for Aryan mooks.
And now the US neoconservative answer to all those Islamic cola brands that have shown up over the past year or so: Star-Spangled Ice Cream, with flavours like "I Hate The French Vanilla", "Smaller Govern-Mint" and "Iraqi Road" (and upcoming flavours like "Cowardly German Chocolate" and "School Prayerleens"). And 10% is donated to military service charities, not "wacko left-wing causes" like Ben & Jerry's.
How long until there is a separate set of grocery brands for each side of the political spectrum?
A piece in the Age about the Blackshirts, the militant "men's group" who want adultery to be punishable by death and seek to achieve this by intimidating women who left their husbands, and their founder, former fixture of the rock'n'roll scene John Abbott.
He now lives with his parents, attends church and plans Blackshirts' campaigns. He quotes the Bible, laments the loss of his children, but defends his decision not to see them. They will be reunited in heaven, he says. "The whole family will be reinstated. That's what heaven's about; there there's no pain."
The Blackshirts could be said to be the extreme wing of the reactionary wave washing through Australian culture, that started with One Nation and went on to the Howard government and its bring-back-the-Menzies-era paternalism. If they get sufficiently big and threatening, we could see the government co-opt some of their less insane policies (such as abolishing no-fault divorce laws, or "reforming" the family court system).
Bias in the Blogosphere, an analysis of the blogging phenomenon using the Chomskyite propaganda model, and concluding that blogging is a reactionary, right-wing propaganda machine by its very structure. Makes some good points (about linkwhoring, the threat of being Dooced or mailbombed serving to shut down dissenters, and dependence on official resources for facts), but it appears to fall into the "blogging was born on 9/11" fallacy, the stereotype of equating blogging as a whole with the right-wing, jingoistic talkback-radio excesses of the "warbloggers". (via Graham)
It may well be that the majority of bloggers are wealthy white males, Libertarians turned born-again Rush Limbaugh clones when the planes hit the WTC, but that just reinforces Sturgeon's law; specifically, that when people have the means of expressing themselves, the vast majority will use it to download porn, put up photos of their cats, discuss the last episode of Friends, or loudly expound their allegiance to their favourite thought-saving orthodoxy, and only a small proportion of content will be actually interesting. (Well, that and the primal instinct to form packs and do battle against rival packs.) So it's not unexpected that big chunks of the blogosphere look like a conservative, vaguely xenophobic suburbia; well, that and the LiveJournal britneyblogs, and the technofetishistic E/N sites run by misogynistic virgins, and so on. Just that warblogging is the currently fashionable flavour of blogging for pinks.
Also via Metafilter, a list of the Top 40 conservative pop songs, arguing that rock'n'roll isn't entirely a Communist plot to corrupt our youth. The list includes the obvious sorts of songs with religious, patriotic and "pro-life" themes, as well as songs scorning leftists, feminists, pacifists, activists and other troublemakers and reestablishing the Natural Order Of How Things Should Be, Goddamnit (James Brown's "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" has pride of place at number 4), as well as songs about the evils of taxation.
Another (somewhat more detailed) article, this time in the Grauniad, about the Blackshirts, the adamantly non-racist, neo-fascist, extreme "men's movement". This time it goes beyond the scary uniforms and the this-is-not-a-swastika logos and actually gets these gents' opinions (which are, as one might expect, somewhat unhinged): (via Feorag)
The Blackshirts say that their only intention is to promote the sanctity of marriage, and they believe that to achieve this aim adultery should be punishable by death. Furthermore, they warn that if the law does not change they may resort to dragging adulterers from their homes and lynching them.
One Blackshirt, who gave his name only as Dominic, admitted that he had been refused custody of his daughter because of an unfavourable psychological report, but put the result down to bias in court.
Gee, I wonder why...
(It reminds me of the guy in the Bourke St. Mall with the signs about how The Simpsons and rock lyrics are full of Masonic codewords, who claimed that the Freemasons were trying to destroy him because he got in fights with the sons of Masons when he was a boy, and now whenever he gets a job, they deliberately set it up so that he gets in a fight and is dismissed.)
Mr Abbott claims that a fifth of Blackshirts are female and that a women's arm of the organisation is about to be established. But there were no women at yesterday's demonstration. "They do more the administrative work," he explained.
I'll bet they do...
Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns into bed: In Melbourne, a group of divorced fathers angry at the state of family law have decided to do the most sensible thing about it: form a paramilitary fascist group, complete with uniforms, balaclavas and a historically ominous name (the Blackshirts), and go around campaigning to "re-establish marriage" by the most direct route: that is, of course, by anonymously harrassing their and each others' ex-wives. Now it turns out that the organiser of this group is a fixture of Melbourne's rock'n'roll scene. He has apparently run a rehearsal studio for over a decade, and users of it are familiar with his numerous psychoceramic beliefs (such as towing Tasmania back to the mainland).
People love a bigot (an ongoing saga): France's far-right demagogue Jean-Marie Le Pen has survived the first round of the Presidential election, beating the Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, once considered a favourite. While it is very unlikely that Le Pen will become President, this result has sent shockwaves through France and triggered spontaneous protests.
How quickly they change their tune. The Government has confirmed that allegations of pederasty made by Senator Bill Heffernan against Justice Michael Kirby are completely false, and based on fraudulent documents, and called on Heffernan to apologise and resign from being cabinet secretary. This is not long after Howard himself lent credence to the allegations, suggesting that the government have the power to sack judges whose sex lives it didn't approve of (other than the usual puritanism, a breach of separation of powers), and insinuating that there is a connection between homosexuality and paedophilia; undoubtedly hoping to leverage the prejudices of Hanson-voting Middle Australia, so useful for winning the last election, to help purge a cumbersomely progressive judge.
Creepy link of the day: The White Supremacist guide to dating, or how to be the psychopath women can't resist and win over the Eva Braun of your dreams (attributed to one "Elizabeth Bennett", who I think is named after a Jane Austen character; go figure):
Many people have pondered and scratched their heads, wondering what the connection is between sex and violence. The answer is, sex IS violence and women want to have sex with a violent man... The fact is, women experience sex as a delicious form of violence. What is more violent than losing control of your body for nine months, swelling up like a tick? I know it's hard for you to understand (because you aren't a faggot who wants to be dominated) but if you don't understand how women feel about sex -- the mixture of pleasure and pain, fear and excitement, melting in a haze of pleasure and degradation -- then you can't be a good lover.
(You know, parts of this read like a neo-Nazi version of Ayn Rand, or perhaps Houseplants of Gor...) (via NtK, bOING bOING)
Ann "Kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity" Coulter has another screed out, and in it she wants to invade France for breeding anti-American sentiment, funding the Palestinian Authority and refusing to extradite terrorist suspects:
Having exhausted itself in a spirited fight with the Nazis in the last war, France cannot work up the energy to oppose terrorism. For decades now, France has nurtured, coddled and funded Islamic terrorists. (Moreover, the Great Satan is getting a little sick of our McDonald's franchises being attacked on behalf of notoriously inefficient French dairy farmers.)
This summer, Paris made Mumia Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen of Paris. In America's cowboy, bloodlust, rush-to-judgment approach to the death penalty, this convicted Philadelphia cop-killer has been sitting on death row -- and giving radio interviews and college commencement addresses -- for 20 years. Since "Mumia" sounds like a Muslim terrorist, Parisians can use the same bumper stickers for the war.